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Masanobu Fukuoka 

The One- Straw 

An Introduction to Natural Farming 

With a Preface by Wendell Berry 

Edited by Larry Korn 


Copyright © 1978 by Rodale Press, Inc., 
and Masanobu Fukuoka. 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or 
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical 
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and 
retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher. 

The One-Straw Revolution 
was translated from the Japanese 
by Chris Pearce, Tsune Kurosawa, and Larry Korn. 

Originally published as Shizen Noho Warn Ippon No Kakumei by 
Hakujusha Co., Ltd., Tokyo, Japan 


Fukuoka, Masanobu. 

The one-straw revolution. 

A translation, with additions, of the author's Shizen noho wara ippon 
no kakumei, published in 1975. 

1. No-tillage. 2. Organic farming. 3. No-tillage — Japan. 4. Organic 
farming — Japan. 5. Fukuoka, Masanobu. I. Title. II. Title: Natural 

S604.F8413 631.5'8 78-1930 
ISBN 0-87857-220-1 hardcover 

Printed in the United States of America on recycled paper. 

10 hardcover 

Photo and Illustration Credits: 

The back cover photograph and photos on pages 43, 45, 57, and 62, are 
© copyright 1978 by Masanobu Fukuoka. 

Photographs on the following pages are © copyright 1977, 1978 by 
Howard Harrison: 2, 16, 35, 42, 50, 55, 73, 93, 101, 107, 112, 125, 140, 
152, 158, 169, and 174. 

The photograph on page 183 (colophon] is © copyright 1978 by Tsune 

The front cover illustration, and all interior drawings are © copyright 
1978 by Chuck Miller. 

The photograph on page 46 is © copyright 1978 by Tomas Nelissen. 


Preface by Wendell Berry ix 

Introduction by Larry Korn xv 

Translator's Notes xxvii 


Look at this Grain 1 

Nothing at All 4 

Returning to the Country 1 1 

Toward a Do-Nothing Farming 1 5 

Returning to the Source 19 

One Reason Natural Farming Has Not Spread 22 

Humanity Does Not Know Nature. 25 


Four Principles of Natural Farming 33 

Farming Among the Weeds 41 

Farming with Straw. 47 

Growing Rice in a Dry Field 53 

Orchard Trees 58 

Orchard Earth 61 

Growing Vegetables like Wild Plants 65 

The Terms for Abandoning Chemicals 70 

Limits of the Scientific Method 74 


One Farmer Speaks Out 19 

A Modest Solution to a Difficult Problem 82 

The Fruit of Hard Times 85 

The Marketing of Natural Food 89 

Commercial Agriculture Will Fail 92 

Research for Whose Benefit? 96 

What is Human Food? 99 

A Merciful Death for Barley 1 05 

Simply Serve Nature and All is Well 1 1 

Various Schools of Natural Farming 115 


Confusion About Food 123 

Nature's Food Mandala 127 

The Culture of Food 134 

Living by Bread Alone 139 

Summing up Diet 142 

Food and Farming 147 


Foolishness Comes Out Looking Smart 151 

Who is the Fool? 156 

I Was Bom to Go to Nursery School 160 

Drifting Clouds and the Illusion of Science 164 

The Theory of Relativity. 169 

A Village Without War and Peace 1 72 

The One-Straw Revolution 178 

This translation has been a communal effort 
by the student workers on the mountain. 


Readers who expect this to be a book only about 
farming will be surprised to find that it is also a book about 
diet, about health, about cultural values, about the limits of 
human knowledge. Others, led to it by hearsay of its 
philosophy, will be surprised to find it full of practical 
knowhow about growing rice and winter grain, citrus fruit, 
and garden vegetables on a Japanese farm. 

It is exactly because of such habitual expectations — 
because we have learned to expect people to be specialists 
and books to have only one subject — that we are in need of 
The One-Straw Revolution. This book is valuable to us 
because it is at once practical and philosophical. It is an 
inspiring, necessary book about agriculture because it is not 
just about agriculture. 

Knowledgeable readers will be aware that Mr. 
Fukuoka's techniques will not be directly applicable to 
most American farms. But it would be a mistake to assume 
that the practical passages of this book are worthless to us 
for that reason. They deserve our attention because they 
provide an excellent example of what can be done when 
land, climate, and crops are studied with fresh interest, 
clear eyes, and the right kind of concern. They are valuable 
to us also because they are suggestive and inspiring. Any 
farmer who reads them will find his thoughts lured 
repeatedly from the page to his own fields, and from there, 
making connections, to the entire system of American 

Like many in this country, and sooner than most, Mr. 
Fukuoka has understood that we cannot isolate one aspect 
of life from another. When we change the way we grow our 
food, we change our food, we change society, we change 
our values. And so this book is about paying attention to 
relationships, to causes and effects, and it is about being 
responsible for what one knows. 

Those who are familiar with the literature of organic 
farming will see the similarities between Mr. Fukuoka's 
career and that of Sir Albert Howard, the founder of the 
science of organic agriculture in the West. Like Howard, 
Mr. Fukuoka started as a laboratory scientist, and, like him, 
soon saw the limitations of the laboratory. Howard moved 
his work from the laboratory to the farm, and so changed 
his life, when he realized that responsibility required him to 
take his own advice before offering it to other people. Mr. 
Fukuoka determined his own course in the same way: 
"Eventually I decided to give my thoughts a form, to put 
them into practice, and so to determine whether my 
understanding was right or wrong. To spend my life 
farming . . . this was the course upon which I settled." And 

he says: "Instead of offering a hundred explanations, would 
not practicing this philosophy be the best way?" When the 
specialist decides to take his own advice, and begins to do 
as he says, he breaks down the walls of his specialization. 
We listen to him then as we could not before, because he 
speaks with authority — not out of knowledge only, but out 
of knowledge and experience together. 

When Mr. Fukuoka speaks of what he calls his "do- 
nothing" methods of farming, a Westerner might 
appropriately be reminded of St. Matthew 6:26: "Behold 
the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, 
nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth 
them." The purpose in both instances, I take it, is to warn us 
of our proper place in the order of things: we did not make 
either the world or ourselves; we live by using life, not by 
creating it. But of course a farmer cannot farm without 
work any more than a bird can find food without searching 
for it, a fact that Mr. Fukuoka acknowledges with 
characteristic good humor: "I advocate 'do-nothing' 
farming, and so many people come, thinking they will find 
a Utopia where one can live without ever having to get out 
of bed. These people are in for a big surprise." The 
argument here is not against work; it is against unnecessary 
work. People sometimes work more than they need to for 
the things that they desire, and some things that they desire 
they do not need. 

And "do-nothing" also refers to the stance that 
common sense is apt to take in response to expert authority: 
'"How about not doing this? How about not doing that?' — 
that was my way of thinking." This is the instructive 
contrariness of children and certain old people, who rightly 
distrust the "sophistication" that goes ahead without asking 
"What for?" 

Mr. Fukuoka is a scientist who is suspicious of 
science — or of what too often passes for science. This does 
not mean that he is either impractical or contemptuous of 
knowledge. His suspicion, indeed, comes from his 
practicality and from what he knows. Like Sir Albert 
Howard, Mr. Fukuoka condemns the piecemealing of 
knowledge by specialization. Like Howard, he wishes to 
pursue his subject in its wholeness, and he never forgets 
that its wholeness includes both what he knows and what 
he does not know. What he fears in modern applied science 
is its disdain for mystery, its willingness to reduce life to 
what is known about it and to act on the assumption that 
what it does not know can safely be ignored. "Nature as 
grasped by scientific knowledge," he says, "is a nature 
which has been destroyed; it is a ghost possessing a 
skeleton, but no soul." Such a passage will recall the 

similar mistrust voiced in our own tradition in these lines 
by Wordsworth: 

Our meddling intellect 

Misshapes the beauteous forms of things — 

We murder to dissect. 

Mr. Fukuoka's is a science that begins and ends in 
reverence — in awareness that the human grasp necessarily 
diminishes whatever it holds. It is not knowledge, he seems 
to say, that gives us the sense of the whole, but joy, which 
we may have only by not grasping. We find this 
corrroborated in certain passages in the Gospels, and in 
William Blake: 

He who binds to himself a joy 
Doth the winged life destroy; 
But he who kisses the joy as it flies 
Lives in eternity's sunrise. 

It is this grace that is the origin of Mr. Fukuoka's 
agricultural insights: "When it is understood that one loses 
joy and happiness in the effort to possess them, the essence 
of natural farming will be realized." 

And this "natural" farming that has its source and end 
in reverence is everywhere human and humane. Humans 
work best when they work for human good, not for the 
"higher production" or "increased efficiency" which have 
been the nearly exclusive goals of industrial agriculture. 
"The ultimate goal of farming," Mr. Fukuoka says, "is not 
the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection- of 
human beings." And he speaks of agriculture as a way: "To 
be here, caring for a small field, in full possession of the 
freedom and plentitude of each day, every day — this must 
have been the original way of agriculture. An agriculture 
that is whole nourishes the whole person, body and soul. 
We do not live by bread alone. 

Wendell Berry 


Near a small village on the island of Shikoku in 
southern Japan, Masanobu Fukuoka has been developing a 
method of natural farming which could help to reverse the 
degenerative momentum of modern agriculture. Natural 
farming requires no machines, no chemicals, and very little 
weeding. Mr. Fukuoka does not plow the soil or use 
prepared compost. He does not hold water in his rice fields 
throughout the growing season as farmers have done for 
centuries in the Orient and around the world. The soil of his 
fields has been left unplowed for over twenty-five years, 
yet their yields compare favorably with those of the most 
productive Japanese farms. His method of farming requires 
less labor than any other. It creates no pollution and does 
not require the use of fossil fuels. 

When I first heard stories about Mr. Fukuoka, I was 
skeptical. How could it be possible to grow high-yielding 
crops of rice and winter grains each year simply by 
scattering seed onto the surface of an unplowed field? 
There had to be more to it than that. 

For several years I had been living with a group of 
friends on a farm in the mountains north of Kyoto. We used 
the traditional methods of Japanese agriculture to grow 
rice, rye, barley, soybeans, and various garden vegetables. 
Visitors to our farm often spoke of the work of Mr. 
Fukuoka. None of these people had stayed long enough at 
his farm to learn the details of his technique, but their talk 
excited my curiosity. 

Whenever there was a lull in our work schedule, I 
travelled to other parts of the country, stopping at farms 
and communes, working part-time along the way. On one 
of these excursions I paid a visit to Mr. Fukuoka's farm to 
learn about this man's work for myself. 

I am not quite sure what I expected him to be like, but 
after having heard so much about this great teacher, I was 
somewhat surprised to see that he was dressed in the boots 
and the work clothes of the average Japanese farmer. Yet 
his white wispy beard and alert, self-assured manner gave 
him the presence of a most unusual person. 

I stayed at Mr. Fukuoka's farm for several months on 
that first visit, working in the fields and in the citrus 
orchard. There, and in the mudwalled huts in evening 
discussions with other student farmworkers, the details of 
Mr. Fukuoka's method and its underlying philosophy 
gradually became clear to me. 

Mr. Fukuoka's orchard is located on the hillsides 
overlooking Matsuyama Bay. This is "the mountain" where 
his students live and work. Most of them arrive as I did, 
with a knapsack on their backs, not knowing what to 
expect. They stay for a few days or a few weeks, and 
disappear down the mountain again. But there is usually a 
core group of four or five who have been there for a year or 
so. Over the years many people, both women and men, 
have come to stay and work. 

There are no modern conveniences. Drinking water is 
carried in buckets from the spring, meals are cooked at a 
wood-burning fireplace, and light is provided by candles 
and kerosene lamps. The mountain is rich with wild herbs 
and vegetables. Fish and shellfish can be gathered in 
nearby streams, and sea vegetables from the Inland Sea a 
few miles away. 

Jobs vary with the weather and the season. The 
workday begins at about eight; there is an hour for lunch 
(two or three hours during the heat of midsummer); the 
students return to the huts from their work just before dusk. 
Besides the agricultural jobs, there are the daily chores of 
carrying water, cutting firewood, cooking, preparing the 
hot bath, taking care of the goats, feeding the chickens and 
collecting their eggs, minding the bee hives, repairing and 
occasionally constructing new huts, and preparing miso 
(soybean paste) and tofu (soybean curd). 

Mr. Fukuoka provides 10,000 yen (about $35) a 
month for the living expenses of the whole community. 
Most of it is used to buy soy sauce, vegetable oil, and other 
necessities which are impractical to produce on a small 
scale. For the rest of their needs, the students must rely 
entirely on the crops they grow, the resources of the area, 
and on their own ingenuity. Mr. Fukuoka purposely has his 
students live in this semi-primitive manner, as he himself 
has lived for many years, because he believes that this way 
of life develops the sensitivity necessary to farm by his 
natural method. 

In the area of Shikoku where Mr. Fukuoka lives, rice 
is grown on the coastal plains and citrus on the surrounding 
hillsides. Mr. Fukuoka's farm consists of one and a quarter 
acres of rice fields and twelve and a half acres of mandarin 
orange orchards. This may not seem like much to a 
Western farmer, but because all the work is done with the 
traditional Japanese hand tools, it requires a lot of labor to 
maintain even so small an acreage. 

Mr. Fukuoka works with the students in the fields and 
in the orchard, but no one knows exactly when he will visit 
the job site. He seems to have a knack for appearing at 
times when the students least expect him. He is an 

energetic man, always chattering about one thing or 
another. Sometimes he calls the students together to discuss 
the work they are doing, often pointing out ways in which 
the job could be accomplished more easily and quickly. At 
other times he talks about the life cycle of a weed or 
disease fungus in the orchard, and occasionally he pauses 
to recall and reflect upon his farming experiences. Besides 
explaining his techniques, Mr. Fukuoka also teaches the 
fundamental skills of agriculture. He emphasizes the 
importance of caring properly for tools and never tires of 
demonstrating their usefulness. 

If the newcomer expected "natural farming" to mean 
that nature would farm while he sat and watched, Mr. 
Fukuoka soon taught him that there was a great deal he had 
to know and do. Strictly speaking, the only "natural" 
farming is hunting and gathering. Raising agricultural crops 
is a cultural innovation which requires knowledge and 
persistent effort. The fundamental distinction is that Mr. 
Fukuoka farms by cooperating with nature rather than 
trying to "improve" upon nature by conquest. 

Many visitors come to spend only an afternoon, and 
Mr. Fukuoka patiently shows them around his farm. It is 
not uncommon to see him striding up the mountain path 
with a group often or fifteen visitors puffing behind. There 
have not always been so many visitors, however. For years, 
while he was developing his method, Mr. Fukuoka had 
little contact with anyone outside his village. 

As a young man, Mr. Fukuoka left his rural home and 
travelled to Yokohama to pursue a career as a 
microbiologist. He became a specialist in plant diseases and 
worked for some years in a laboratory as an "agricultural 
customs inspector. It was at that time, while still a young 
man of twenty-five, that Mr. Fukuoka experienced the 
realization which was to form the basis of his life's work 
and which was to be the theme of this book, The One-Straw 
Revolution. He left his job and returned to his native village 
to test the soundness of his ideas by applying them in his 
own fields. 

The basic idea came to him one day as he happened to 
pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed 
for many years. There he saw healthy rice seedlings 
sprouting through a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that 
time on, he stopped flooding his field in order to grow rice. 
He stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put 
the seed out in the autumn, sowing it directly onto the 
surface of the field when it would naturally have fallen to 
the ground. Instead of plowing the soil to get rid of weeds, 
he learned to control them by a more or less permanent 
ground cover of white clover and a mulch of rice and 
barley straw. Once he has seen to it that conditions have 

been tilted in favor of his crops, Mr. Fukuoka interferes as 
little as possible with the plant and animal communities in 
his fields. 

Since many Westerners, even farmers, are not familiar 
with the rotation of rice and winter grain, and because Mr. 
Fukuoka makes many references to rice-growing in The 
One-Straw Revolution, it may be helpful to say a few words 
about traditional Japanese agriculture. 

Originally rice seed was cast directly onto the flooded 
river plain during the monsoon season. Eventually the 
bottomlands were terraced to hold irrigation water even 
after the seasonal flooding had subsided. 

By the traditional method, used in Japan until the end 
of the Second World War, rice seed is sown onto a 
carefully prepared starter bed. Compost and manure are 
distributed over the field, which is then flooded and plowed 
to a pea-soup consistency. When the seedlings are about 
eight inches tall, they are transplanted by hand to the field. 
Working steadily, an experienced farmer can transplant 
about one -third of an acre in a day, but the job is almost 
always done by many people working together. 

Once the rice has been transplanted, the field is lightly 
cultivated between the rows. It is then hand-weeded, and 
often mulched. For three months the field stays flooded, the 
water standing an inch or more above the surface of the 
ground. Harvesting is done with a hand sickle. The rice is 
bundled and hung on wooden or bamboo racks for a few 
weeks to dry before threshing. From transplanting to 
harvest, every inch of the field is gone over at least four 
times by hand. 

As soon as the rice harvest is completed, the field is 
plowed and the soil is shaped into flattened ridges about a 
foot wide divided by drainage furrows. The seeds of rye or 
barley are scattered on top of the hills and covered with 
soil. This rotation was made possible by a well-timed 
planting schedule and care to keep the fields well supplied 
with organic matter and essential nutrients. It is remarkable 
that, using the traditional method, Japanese farmers grew a 
crop of rice and a winter grain crop each year in the same 
field for centuries without reducing the fertility of the soil. 

Though he recognizes many virtues of the traditional 
farming, Mr. Fukuoka feels that it involves work that is 
unnecessary. He speaks of his own methods as "do- 
nothing" farming and says that they make it possible even 
for a "Sunday farmer" to grow enough food for the whole 
family. He does not mean, however, that his sort of farming 
can be done entirely without effort. His farm is maintained 
by a regular schedule of field chores. What is done must be 
done properly and with sensitivity. Once the farmer has 

determined that a plot of land should grow rice or 
vegetables and has cast the seed, he must assume 
responsibility for maintaining that plot. To disrupt nature 
and then to abandon her is harmful and irresponsible. 

In the fall Mr. Fukuoka sows the seeds of rice, white 
clover, and winter grain onto the same fields and covers 
them with a thick layer of rice straw. The barley or rye and 
the clover sprout up right away; the rice seeds lie dormant 
until spring. 

While the winter grain is growing and ripening in the 
lower fields, the orchard hillsides become the center of 
activity. The citrus harvest lasts from mid-November to 

The rye and barley are harvested in May and spread to 
dry on the field for a week or ten days. They are then 
threshed, winnowed, and put into sacks for storage. All of 
the straw is scattered unshredded across the field as mulch. 
Water is then held in the field for a short time during the 
monsoon rains in June to weaken the clover and weeds and 
to give the rice a chance to sprout through the ground 
cover. Once the field is drained, the clover recovers and 
spreads beneath the growing rice plants. From then until 
harvest, a time of heavy labor for the traditional farmer, the 
only jobs in Mr. Fukuoka's rice fields are those of 
maintaining the drainage channels and mowing the narrow 
walkways between the fields. 

The rice is harvested in October. The grain is hung to 
dry and then threshed. Autumn seeding is completed just as 
the early varieties of mandarin oranges are becoming ripe 
and ready for harvest. 

Mr. Fukuoka harvests between 1 8 and 22 bushels 
(1,100 to 1,300 pounds) of rice per quarter acre. This yield 
is approximately the same as is produced by either the 
chemical or the traditional method in his area. The yield of 
his winter grain crop is often higher than that of either the 
traditional farmer or the chemical farmer who both use the 
ridge and furrow method of cultivation. 

All three methods (natural, traditional, and chemical) 
yield comparable harvests, but differ markedly in their 
effect on the soil. The soil in Mr. Fukuoka's fields improves 
with each season. Over the past twenty-five years, since he 
stopped plowing, his fields have improved in fertility, 
structure, and in their ability to retain water. By the 
traditional method the condition of the soil over the years 
remains about the same. The farmer takes yields in direct 
proportion to the amount of compost and manure he puts 
in. The soil in the fields of the chemical farmer becomes 
lifeless and depleted of its native fertility in a short time. 

One of the greatest advantages of Mr. Fukuoka's 
method is that rice can be grown without flooding the field 

throughout the growing season. Few people have ever 
thought this possible. It is possible, and Mr. Fukuoka 
maintains that rice grows better this way. His rice plants are 
strong-stemmed and deeply rooted. The old variety of 
glutinous rice that he grows has between 250 and 300 
grains per head.- 

The use of mulch increases the soil's ability to retain 
water. In many places natural farming can completely 
eliminate the need for irrigation. Rice and other high- 
yielding crops can therefore be grown in areas not 
previously thought suitable. Steep and otherwise marginal 
land can be brought into production without danger of 
erosion. By means of natural farming, soils already 
damaged by careless agricultural practices or by chemicals 
can be effectively rehabilitated. 

Plant diseases and insects are present in the fields and 
in the orchard, but the crops are never devastated. The 
damage affects only the weakest plants. Mr. Fukuoka 
insists that the best disease and insect control is to grow 
crops in a healthy environment. 

The fruit trees of Mr. Fukuoka's orchard are not 
pruned low and wide for easy harvesting, but are allowed to 
grow into their distinctive natural shapes. Vegetables and 
herbs are grown on the orchard slopes with a minimum of 
soil preparation. During the spring, seeds of burdock, 
cabbage, radish, soybeans, mustard, turnips, carrots and 
other vegetables are mixed together and tossed out to 
germinate in an open area among the trees before one of the 
long spring rains. This sort of planting obviously would not 
work everywhere. It works well in Japan where there is a 
humid climate with rain dependably falling throughout the 
spring months. The texture of the soil of Mr. Fukuoka's 
orchard is clayey. The surface layer is rich in organic 
matter, friable, and retains water well. This is the result of 
the cover of weeds and clover that has grown in the orchard 
continuously for many years. 

The weeds must be cut back when the vegetable 
seedlings are young, but once the vegetables have 
established themselves they are left to grow up with the 
natural ground cover. Some vegetables go unharvested, the 
seeds fall, and after one or two generations, they revert to 
the growing habits of their strong and slightly bitter-tasting 
wild predecessors. Many of these vegetables grow up 
completely untended. Once, not long after I came to Mr. 
Fukuoka's farm, I was walking through a remote section of 
the orchard and unexpectedly kicked something hard in the 
tall grass. Stooping to look more closely, I found a 
cucumber, and nearby I found a squash nestled among the 

For years Mr. Fukuoka wrote about his method in 
books and magazines, and was interviewed on radio and 
television, but almost no one followed his example. At that 
time Japanese society was moving with determination in 
exactly the opposite direction. 

After the Second World War, the Americans 
introduced modern chemical agriculture to Japan. This 
enabled the Japanese farmer to produce approximately the 
same yields as the traditional method, but the farmer's time 
and labor were reduced by more than half. This seemed a 
dream come true, and within one generation almost 
everyone had switched to chemical agriculture. 

For centuries Japanese farmers had maintained 
organic matter in the soil by rotating crops, by adding 
compost and manure, and by growing cover crops. Once 
these practices were neglected and fast-acting chemical 
fertilizer was used instead, the humus was depleted in a 
single generation. The structure of the soil deteriorated; 
crops became weak and dependent on chemical nutrients. 
To make up for reduced human and animal labor, the new 
system mined the fertility reserves of the soil. 

During the past forty years Mr. Fukuoka has 
witnessed with indignation the degeneration both of the 
land and of Japanese society. The Japanese followed 
singlemindedly the American model of economic and 
industrial development. The population shifted as farmers 
migrated from the countryside into the growing industrial 
centers. The rural village where Mr. Fukuoka was born and 
where the Fukuoka family has probably lived for 1 ,400 
years or more now stands at the edge of the advancing 
suburbs of Matsuyama City. A national highway with its 
litter of sake bottles and trash passes through Mr. 
Fukuoka's rice fields. 

Although he does not identify his philosophy with any 
particular religious sect or organization, Mr. Fukuoka's 
terminology and teaching methods are strongly influenced 
by Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He will sometimes also 
quote from the Bible and bring up points of Judeo-Christian 
philosophy and theology to illustrate what he is saying or to 
stimulate discussion. 

Mr. Fukuoka believes that natural farming proceeds 
from the spiritual health of the individual. He considers the 
healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit 
to be one process, and he proposes a way of life and a way 
of farming in which this process can take place. 

It is unrealistic to believe that, in his lifetime and 
within current conditions, Mr. Fukuoka could completely 
realize his vision in practice. Even after more than thirty 
years his techniques are still evolving. His great 

contribution is to demonstrate that the daily process of 
establishing spiritual health can bring about a practical and 
beneficial transformation of the world. 

Today, the general recognition of the long-term 
dangers of chemical farming has renewed interest in 
alternative methods of agriculture. Mr. Fukuoka has 
emerged as a leading spokesman for agricultural revolution 
in Japan. Since the publication of The One-Straw 
Revolution in October, 1975, interest in natural farming has 
spread rapidly among the Japanese people. 

During the year-and-a-half that I worked at Mr. 
Fukuoka's, I returned frequently to my farm in Kyoto. 
Everyone there was anxious to try the new method and 
gradually more and more of our land was converted to 
natural farming. 

Besides rice and rye in the traditional rotation, we also 
grew wheat, buckwheat, potatoes, corn, and soybeans by 
Mr. Fukuoka's method. To plant corn and other row crops 
which germinate slowly, we poked a hole in the soil with a 
stick or a piece of bamboo and dropped a seed into each 
hole. We interplanted the corn with soybeans by the same 
method or by wrapping the seeds in clay pellets and 
scattering them onto the field. Then we mowed the ground 
cover of weeds and white clover, and covered the field with 
straw. The clover came back, but only after the corn and 
soybeans were well established. 

Mr. Fukuoka was able to help by making some 
suggestions, but we had to adjust the method by trial and 
error to our various crops and local conditions. We knew 
from the start that it would take more than just a few 
seasons, both for the land and our own spirits, to change 
over to natural farming. The transition has become an on- 
going process. 

Larry Korn 

Notes on the Translation 

A literal translation from one language to another 
would be challenging enough, but to retain the flavor and 
cultural context of the original as well, is even more 
difficult. In particular, Japanese is more subtle than English 
in expressing the kind of spiritual experiences and 
philosophical teachings which are found in this book. Some 
terms, such as "discriminating" and "non-discriminating" 
knowledge, "no-mind," and "do-nothing" have no English 
equivalent, and so have been rendered literally with 
additional explanation provided in notes. 

It is a common teaching device among Oriental 
philosophers to use paradox, illogic, and apparent 
contradiction to help break habitual patterns of thought. 
Such passages are not necessarily to be taken either literally 
or figuratively, but rather as exercises to open the 
consciousness to perception beyond the reach of the 

The Japanese, mugi, translated as "winter grain," 
includes wheat, rye, and barley. The growing methods for 
these grains are similar, except that wheat generally takes a 
few weeks longer to mature. Rye and barley are much more 
commonly grown in Japan because wheat is not ready for 
harvest until the middle of the Japanese rainy season. 

The Japanese, mikan, is translated as citrus. The most 
common Oriental citrus is the mandarin orange. While 
many varieties of mandarin oranges are grown in Japan, the 
most common is a small orange fruit very much like our 
familiar tangerine. 

Where context requires, the precise winter grain and 
citrus varieties are given. 

The translation of The One-Straw Revolution was 
begun at Mr. Fukuoka's farm, and under his supervision in 
Spring, 1976. It is not a verbatim translation. Sections of 
other works by Mr. Fukuoka, as well as parts of 
conversations with him, have been included in the text. 

The One- Straw Revolution 

Look at this Grain 

I believe that a revolution can begin from this one 
strand of straw. Seen at a glance, this rice straw may appear 
light and insignificant. Hardly anyone would believe that it 
could start a revolution. But I have come to realize the 
weight and power of this straw. For me, this revolution is 
very real. 

Take a look at these fields of rye and barley. This 
ripening grain will yield about 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) 
per quarter acre. I believe this matches the top yields in 
Ehime Prefecture. And if this equals the best yield in 
Ehime Prefecture, it could easily equal the top harvest in 
the whole country since this is one of the prime agricultural 
areas in Japan. And yet these fields have not been plowed 
for twenty-five years. 

To plant, I simply broadcast rye and barley seed on 
separate fields in the fall, while the rice is still standing. A 
few weeks later I harvest the rice and spread the rice straw 
back over the fields. 

It is the same for the rice seeding. This winter grain 
will be cut around the 20th of May. About two weeks 
before the crop has fully matured, I broadcast rice seed 
over the rye and barley. After the winter grain has been 
harvested and the grains threshed, I spread the rye and 
barley straw over the field. 

I suppose that using the same method to plant rice and 
winter grain is unique to this kind of farming. But there is 
an easier way. As we walk over to the next field, let me 
point out that the rice there was sown last fall at the same 
time as the winter grain. The whole year's planting was 
finished in that field by New Year's Day. 

You might also notice that white clover and weeds are 
growing in these fields. Clover seed was sown among the 
rice plants in early October, shortly before the rye and 
barley. I do not worry about sowing the weeds — they 
reseed themselves quite easily. 

So the order of planting in this field is like this: in 
early October clover is broadcast among the rice; winter 
grain then follows in the middle of the month. In early 
November, the rice is harvested, and then the next year's 
rice seed is sown and straw laid across the field. The rye 
and barley you see in front of you were grown this way. 

"And yet these fields have not been plowed for twenty-five years." 

In caring for a quarter-acre field, one or two people 
can do all the work of growing rice and winter grain in a 
matter of a few days. It seems unlikely that there could be a 
simpler way of raising grain. 

This method completely contradicts modern 
agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and 
traditional farming know-how right out the window. With 
this kind of farming, which uses no machines, no prepared 
fertilizer and no chemicals, it is possible to attain a harvest 
equal to or greater than that of the average Japanese farm. 
The proof is ripening right before your eyes. 

Nothing at All 

Recently people have been asking me why I started 
farming this way so many years ago. Until now I have 
never discussed this with anyone. You could say there was 
no way to talk about it. It was simply — how would you say 
it — a shock, a flash, one small experience that was the 
starting point. 

That realization completely changed my life. It is 
nothing you can really talk about, but it might be put 
something like this: "Humanity knows nothing at all. There 
is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile, 
meaningless effort." This may seem preposterous, but if 
you put it into words, that is the only way to describe it. 

This "thought" developed suddenly in my head when I 
was still quite young. I did not know if this insight, that all 
human understanding and effort are of no account, was 
valid or not, but if I examined these thoughts and tried to 
banish them, I could come up with nothing within myself to 
contradict them. Only the certain belief that this was so 
burned within me. 

It is generally thought that there is nothing more 
splendid than human intelligence, that human beings are 
creatures of special value, and that their creations and 
accomplishments as mirrored in culture and history are 
wondrous to behold. That is the common belief, anyway. 

Since what I was thinking was a denial of this, I was 
unable to communicate my view to anyone. Eventually I 
decided to give my thoughts a form, to put them into 
practice, and so to determine whether my understanding 
was right or wrong. To spend my life farming, growing rice 
and winter grain — this was the course upon which I settled. 

And what was this experience that changed my life? 

Forty years ago, when I was twenty-five years old, I 
was working for the Yokohama Customs Bureau in the 
Plant Inspection Division. My main job was to inspect 
incoming and outgoing plants for disease-carrying insects. I 
was fortunate to have a good deal of free time, which I 
spent in the research laboratory, carrying out investigations 
in my specialty of plant pathology. This laboratory was 
located next to Yamate Park and looked down on 
Yokohama harbor from the bluff. Directly in front of the 
building was the Catholic Church, and to the east was the 
Ferris Girls' School. It was very quiet, all in all the perfect 
environment for carrying on research. 

The laboratory pathology researcher was Eiichi 
Kurosawa. I had studied plant pathology under Makoto 

Okera, a teacher at Gifu Agricultural High School, and 
received guidance from Suehiko Igata of the Okayama 
Prefecture Agricultural Testing Center. 

I was very fortunate to be a student of Professor 
Kurosawa. Although he remained largely unknown in the 
academic world, he is the man who isolated and raised in 
culture the fungus which causes bakanae disease in rice. 
He became the first to extract the plant growth hormone, 
gibberellin, from the fungus culture. This hormone, when a 
small amount is absorbed by the young rice plants, has the 
peculiar effect of causing the plant to grow abnormally tall. 
When given in excess, however, it brings about the 
opposite reaction, causing the plant's growth to be retarded. 
No one took much notice of this discovery in Japan, but 
overseas it became a topic of active research. Soon 
thereafter, an American made use of gibberellin in 
developing the seedless grape. 

I regarded Kurosawa-san* as my own father, and with 
his guidance, built a dissection microscope and devoted 
myself to research on decay-causing resin diseases in the 
trunk, branches and fruit of American and Japanese citrus 

Looking through the microscope, I observed fungus 
cultures, crossbred various fungi and created new disease- 
causing varieties. I was fascinated with my work. Since the 
job required deep, sustained concentration, there were 
times when I actually fell unconscious while working in the 

This was also a time of youthful high spirits and I did 
not spend all of my time shut up in the research room. The 
place was the port city of Yokohama, no better spot to fool 
around and have a good time. It was during that time that 
the following episode occurred. Intent, and with camera in 
hand, I was strolling by the wharf and caught sight of a 
beautiful woman. Thinking that she would make a great 
subject for a photograph, I asked her to pose for me. I 
helped her onto the deck of the foreign ship anchored there, 
and asked her to look this way and that and took several 
pictures. She asked me to send her copies when the photos 
were ready. When I asked where to send them, she just 
said, "To Ofuna," and left without mentioning her name. 

After I had developed the film, I showed the prints to 
a friend and asked if he recognized her. He gasped and 
said, "That's Mieko Takamine, the famous movie star!" 
Right away, I sent ten enlarged prints to her in Ofuna City. 
Before long, the prints, autographed, were returned in the 

*-san is a formal title of address in Japanese used for both men and 

mail. There was one missing, however. Thinking about this 
later, I realized that it was the close-up profile shot I had 
taken; it probably showed some wrinkles in her face. I was 
delighted and felt I had caught a glimpse into the feminine 

At other times, clumsy and awkward though I was, I 
frequented a dance hall in the Nankingai area. One time I 
caught sight there of the popular singer, Noriko Awaya, 
and asked her to dance. I can never forget the feeling of 
that dance, because I was so overwhelmed by her huge 
body that I could not even get my arm around her waist. 

In any event, I was a very busy, very fortunate young 
man, spending my days in amazement at the world of 
nature revealed through the eyepiece of the microscope, 
struck by how similar this minute world was to the great 
world of the infinite universe. In the evening, either in or 
out of love, I played around and enjoyed myself. I believe it 
was this aimless life, coupled with fatigue from overwork, 
that finally led to fainting spells in the research room. The 
consequence of all this was that I contracted acute 
pneumonia and was placed in the pneumothorax treatment 
room on the top floor of the Police Hospital. 

It was winter and through a broken window the wind 
blew swirls of snow around the room. It was warm beneath 
the covers, but my face was like ice. The nurse would 
check my temperature and be gone in an instant. 

As it was a private room, people hardly ever looked 
in. I felt I had been put out in the bitter cold, and suddenly 
plunged into a world of solitude and loneliness. I found 
myself face to face with the fear of death. As I think about 
it now, it seems a useless fear, but at the time, I took it 

I was finally released from the hospital, but I could 
not pull myself out of my depression. In what had I placed 
my confidence until then? I had been unconcerned and 
content, but what was the nature of that complacency? I 
was in an agony of doubt about the nature of life and death. 
I could not sleep, could not apply myself to my work. In 
nightly wanderings above the bluff and beside the harbor, I 
could find no relief. 

One night as I wandered, I collapsed in exhaustion on 
a hill overlooking the harbor, finally dozing against the 
trunk of a large tree. I lay there, neither asleep nor awake, 
until dawn. I can still remember that it was the morning of 
the 15th of May. In a daze I watched the harbor grow light, 
seeing the sunrise and yet somehow not seeing it. As the 
breeze blew up from below the bluff, the morning mist 
suddenly disappeared. Just at that moment a night heron 
appeared, gave a sharp cry, and flew away into the 
distance. I could hear the flapping of its wings. In an instant 

all my doubts and the gloomy mist of my confusion 
vanished. Everything I had held in firm conviction, 
everything upon which I had ordinarily relied was swept 
away with the wind. I felt that I understood just one thing. 
Without my thinking about them, words came from my 
mouth: "In this world there is nothing at all. . . ."I felt that I 
understood nothing.* 

I could see that all the concepts to which I had been 
clinging, the very notion of existence itself, were empty 
fabrications. My spirit became light and clear. I was 
dancing wildly for joy. I could hear the small birds chirping 
in the trees, and see the distant waves glistening in the 
rising sun. The leaves danced green and sparkling. I felt 
that this was truly heaven on earth. Everything that had 
possessed me, all the agonies, disappeared like dreams and 
illusions, and something one might call "true nature" stood 

I think it could safely be said that from the experience 
of that morning my life changed completely. 

Despite the change, I remained at root an average, 
foolish man, and there has been no change in this from then 
to the present time. Seen from the outside, there is no more 
run-of-the-mill fellow than I, and there has been nothing 
extraordinary about my daily life. But the assurance that I 
know this one thing has not changed since that time. I have 
spent thirty years, forty years, testing whether or not I have 
been mistaken, reflecting as I went along, but not once 
have I found evidence to oppose my conviction. 

*To "understand nothing," in this sense, is to recognize the 
insufficiency of intellectual knowledge. 

That this realization in itself has great value does not 
mean that any special value is attached to me. I remain a 
simple man, just an old crow, so to speak. To the casual 
observer I may seem either humble or arrogant. I tell the 
young people up in my orchard again and again not to try 
to imitate me, and it really angers me if there is someone 
who does not take this advice to heart. I ask, instead, that 
they simply live in nature and apply themselves to their 
daily work. No, there is nothing special about me, but what 
I have glimpsed is vastly important. 

Returning to the Country 

On the day following this experience, May 16th, I 
reported to work and handed in my resignation on the spot. 
My superiors and friends were amazed. They had no idea 
what to make of this. They held a farewell party for me in a 
restaurant above the wharf, but the atmosphere was a bit 
peculiar. This young man who had, until the previous day, 
gotten along well with everyone, who did not seem 
particularly dissatisfied with his work, who, on the 
contrary, had wholeheartedly dedicated himself to his 
research, had suddenly announced that he was quitting. 
And there I was, laughing happily. 

At that time I addressed everyone as follows, "On this 
side is the wharf. On the other side is Pier 4. If you think 
there is life on this side, then death is on the other. If you 
want to get rid of the idea of death, then you should rid 
yourself of the notion that there is life on this side. Life and 
death are one." 

When I said this everyone became even more 
concerned about me. "What's he saying? He must be out of 
his mind," they must have thought. They all saw me off 
with rueful faces. I was the only one who walked out 
briskly, in high spirits. 

At that time my roommate was extremely worried 
about me and suggested that I take a quiet rest, perhaps out 
on the Boso Peninsula. So I left. I would have gone 
anywhere at all if someone had asked me. I boarded the bus 
and rode for many miles gazing out at the checkered 
pattern of fields and small villages along the highway. At 
one stop, I saw a small sign which read, "Utopia." I got off 
the bus there and set out in search of it. 

On the coast there was a small inn and, climbing the 
cliff, I found a place with a truly wonderful view. I stayed 
at the inn and spent the days dozing in the tall grasses 
overlooking the sea. It may have been a few days, a week, 
or a month, but anyway I stayed there for some time. As 
the days passed my exhilaration dimmed, and I began to 
reflect on just what had happened. You could say I was 
finally coming to myself again. 

I went to Tokyo and stayed for a while, passing the 
days by walking in the park, stopping people on the street 
and talking to them, sleeping here and there. My friend was 
worried and came to see how I was getting along. "Aren't 
you living in some dream world, some world of illusion?" 
he asked. "No," I replied, "it's you who are living in the 

dream world." We both thought, "I am right and you are in 
the dream world." When my friend turned to say good-bye, 
I answered with something like, "Don't say good-bye. To 
part is just to part." My friend seemed to have given up 

I left Tokyo, passed through the Kansai area* and 
came as far south as Kyushu. I was enjoying myself, 
drifting from place to place with the breeze. I challenged a 
lot of people with my conviction that everything is 
meaningless and of no value, that everything returns to 

But this was too much, or too little, for the everyday 
world to conceive. There was no communication 
whatsoever. I could only think of this concept of non- 
usefulness as being of great benefit to the world', and 
particularly the present world which is moving so rapidly in 
the opposite direction. I actually wandered about with the 
intention of spreading the word throughout the whole 
country. The outcome was that wherever I went I was 
ignored as an eccentric. So I returned to my father's farm in 
the country. 

My father was growing tangerines at that time and I 
moved into a hut on the mountain and began to live a very 
simple, primitive life. I thought that if here, as a farmer of 
citrus and grain, I could actually demonstrate my 
realization, the world would recognize its truth. Instead of 
offering a hundred explanations, would not practicing this 
philosophy be the best way? My method of "do-nothing"** 
farming began with this thought. It was in the 1 3th year of 
the present emperor's reign, 1938. 

I settled myself on the mountain and everything went 
well up to the time that my father entrusted me with the 
richly-bearing trees in the orchard. He had already pruned 
the trees to "the shape of sake cups" so that the fruit could 
easily be harvested. When I left them abandoned in this 
state, the result was that the branches became intertwined, 
insects attacked the trees and the entire orchard withered 
away in no time. 

My conviction was that crops grow themselves and 
should not have to be grown. I had acted in the belief that 
everything should be left to take its natural course, but I 
found that if you apply this way of thinking all at once, 
before long things do not go so well. This is abandonment, 
not "natural farming." 

* Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto. 

**With this expression Mr. Fukuoka draws attention to his method's 
comparative ease. This way of farming requires hard work, especially 
at the harvest, but far less than other methods. 

My father was shocked. He said I must rediscipline 
myself, perhaps take a job somewhere and return when I 
had pulled myself back together. At that time my father 
was headman of the village, and it was hard for the other 
members of the community to relate to his eccentric son, 
who obviously could not get along with the world, living as 
he did back in the mountains. Moreover, I disliked the 
prospect of military service, and as the war was becoming 
more and more violent, I decided to go along humbly with 
my father's wishes and take a job. 

At that time technical specialists were few. The Kochi 
Prefecture Testing Station heard about me, and it came 
about that I was offered the post of Head Researcher of 
Disease and Insect Control. I imposed upon the kindness of 
Kochi Prefecture for almost eight years. At the testing 
center I became a supervisor in the scientific agriculture 
division, and in research devoted myself to increasing 
wartime food productivity. But actually during those eight 
years, I was pondering the relationship between scientific 
and natural agriculture. Chemical agriculture, which 
utilizes the products of human intelligence, was reputed to 
be superior. The question which was always in the back of 
my mind was whether or not natural agriculture could stand 
up against modern science. 

When the war ended I felt a fresh breeze of freedom, 
and with a sigh of relief I returned to my home village to 
take up farming anew. 

Toward a Do-Nothing Farming 

For thirty years I lived only in my farming and had 
little contact with people outside my own community. 
During those years I was heading in a straight line toward a 
"do-nothing" agricultural method. 

The usual way to go about developing a method is to 
ask "How about trying this?" or "How about trying that?" 
bringing in a variety of techniques one upon the other. This 
is modern agriculture and it only results in making the 
farmer busier. 

My way was opposite. I was aiming at a pleasant, 
natural way of farming* which results in making the work 
easier instead of harder. "How about not doing this? How 
about not doing that?" — that was my way of thinking. I 
ultimately reached the conclusion that there was no need to 
plow, no need to apply fertilizer, no need to make compost, 
no need to use insecticide. When you get right down to it, 
there are few agricultural practices that are really 

The reason that man's improved techniques seem to be 
necessary is that the natural balance has been so badly 
upset beforehand by those same techniques that the land 
has become dependent on them. 

This line of reasoning not only applies to agriculture, 
but to other aspects of human society as well. Doctors and 
medicine become necessary when people create a sickly 
environment. Formal schooling has no intrinsic value, but 
becomes necessary when humanity creates a condition in 
which one must become "educated" to get along. 

Before the end of the war, when I went up to the citrus 
orchard to practice what I then thought was natural 
farming, I did no pruning and left the orchard to itself. The 
branches became tangled, the trees were attacked by insects 
and almost two acres of mandarin orange trees withered 
and died. From that time on the question, "What is the 
natural pattern?" was always in my mind. In the process of 
arriving at the answer, I wiped out another 400 trees. 
Finally I felt I could say with certainty: "This is the natural 

* Farming as simply as possible within and in cooperation with the 
natural environment, rather than the modern approach of applying 
increasingly complex techniques to remake nature entirely for the 
benefit of human beings. 

"For thirty years I lived only in my farming...." 

To the extent that trees deviate from their natural 
form, pruning and insect extermination become necessary; 
to the extent that human society separates itself from a life 
close to nature, schooling becomes necessary. In nature, 
formal schooling has no function. 

In raising children, many parents make the same 
mistake I made in the orchard at first. For example, 
teaching music to children is as unnecessary as pruning 
orchard trees. A child's ear catches the music. The 
murmuring of a stream, the sound of frogs croaking by the 
riverbank, the rustling of leaves in the forest, all these 
natural sounds are music — true music. But when a variety 
of disturbing noises enter and confuse the ear, the child's 
pure, direct appreciation of music degenerates. If left to 
continue along that path, the child will be unable to hear 
the call of a bird or the sound of the wind as songs. That is 
why music education is thought to be beneficial to the 
child's development. 

The child who is raised with an ear pure and clear 
may not be able to play the popular tunes on the violin or 
the piano, but I do not think this has anything to do with the 
ability to hear true music or to sing. It is when the heart is 
filled with song that the child can be said to be musically 

Almost everyone thinks that "nature" is a good thing, 
but few can grasp the difference between natural and 

If a single new bud is snipped off a fruit tree with a 
pair of scissors, that may bring about disorder which cannot 
be undone. When growing according to the natural form, 
branches spread alternately from the trunk and the leaves 

receive sunlight uniformly. If this sequence is disrupted the 
branches come into conflict, lie one upon another and 
become tangled, and the leaves wither in the places where 
the sun cannot penetrate. Insect damage develops. If the 
tree is not pruned the following year more withered 
branches will appear. 

Human beings with their tampering do something 
wrong, leave the damage unrepaired, and when the adverse 
results accumulate, work with all their might to correct 
them. When the corrective actions appear to be successful, 
they come to view these measures as splendid 
accomplishments. People do this over and over again. It is 
as if a fool were to stomp on and break the tiles of his roof. 
Then when it starts to rain and the ceiling begins to rot 
away, he hastily climbs up to mend the damage, rejoicing 
in the end that he has accomplished a miraculous solution. 

It is the same with the scientist. He pores over books 
night and day, straining his eyes and becoming nearsighted, 
and if you wonder what on earth he has been working on 
all that time — it is to become the inventor of eyeglasses to 
correct nearsightedness. 

Returning to the Source 

Leaning against the long handle of my scythe, I pause 
in my work in the orchard and gaze out at the mountains 
and the village below. I wonder how it is that people's 
philosophies have come to spin faster than the changing 

The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, 
which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted 
as a reaction against the advance and reckless development 
of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in 
the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. 
Because the world is moving with such furious energy in 
the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen 
behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have 
been following is the most sensible one. 

During the past few years the number of people 
interested in natural farming has grown considerably. It 
seems that the limit of scientific development has been 
reached, misgivings have begun to be felt, and the time for 
reappraisal has arrived. That which was viewed as 
primitive and backward is now unexpectedly seen to be far 
ahead of modern science. This may seem strange at first, 
but I do not find it strange at all. 

I discussed this with Kyoto University Professor 
Iinuma recently. A thousand years ago agriculture was 
practiced in Japan without plowing, and it was not until the 
Tokugawa Era 300-400 years ago that shallow cultivation 
was introduced. Deep plowing came to Japan with Western 
agriculture. I said that in coping with the problems of the 
future the next generation would return to the non- 
cultivation method. 

To grow crops in an unplowed field may seem at first 
a regression to primitive agriculture, but over the years this 
method has been shown in university laboratories and 
agricultural testing centers across the country to be the 
most simple, efficient, and up-to-date method of all. 
Although this way of farming disavows modern science, it 
now has come to stand in the forefront of modern 
agricultural development. 

I presented this "direct seeding non-cultivation winter 
grain/rice succession" in agricultural journals twenty years 
ago. From then on it appeared often in print and was 
introduced to the public at large on radio and television 
programs many times, but nobody paid much attention to it. 

Now suddenly, it is a completely different story. You 
might say that natural farming has become the rage. 

Journalists, professors, and technical researchers are 
flocking to visit my fields and the huts up on the mountain. 

Different people see it from different points of view, 
make their own interpretations, and then leave. One sees it 
as primitive, another as backward, someone else considers 
it the pinnacle of agricultural achievement, and a fourth 
hails it as a breakthrough into the future. In general, people 
are only concerned with whether this kind of farming is an 
advance into the future or a revival of times past. Few are 
able to grasp correctly that natural farming arises from the 
unmoving and unchanging center of agricultural 

To the extent that people separate themselves from 
nature, they spin out further and further from the center. At 
the same time, a centripetal effect asserts itself and the 
desire to return to nature arises. But if people merely 
become caught up in reacting, moving to the left or to the 
right, depending on conditions, the result is only more 
activity. The non-moving point of origin, which lies outside 
the realm of relativity, is passed over, unnoticed. I believe 
that even "returning-to-nature" and anti-pollution activities, 
no matter how commendable, are not moving toward a 
genuine solution if they are carried out solely in reaction to 
the overdevelopment of the present age. 

Nature does not change, although the way of viewing 
nature invariably changes from age to age. No matter the 
age, natural farming exists forever as the wellspring of 

One Reason That 
Natural Farming Has Not Spread 

Over the past twenty or thirty years this method of 
growing rice and winter grain has been tested over a wide 
range of climates and natural conditions. Almost every 
prefecture in Japan has run tests comparing yields of "direct 
seeding non-cultivation" with those of paddy rice growing 
and the usual ridge and furrow rye and barley cultivation. 
These tests have produced no evidence to contradict the 
universal applicability of natural farming. 

And so one may ask why this truth has not spread. I 
think that one of the reasons is that the world has become 
so specialized that it has become impossible for people to 
grasp anything in its entirely. For example, an expert in 
insect damage prevention from the Kochi Prefectural 
Testing Center came to inquire why there were so few rice 
leaf-hoppers in my fields even though I had not used 
insecticide. Upon investigating the habitat, the balance 
between insects and their natural enemies, the rate of spider 
propagation and so on, the leaf-hoppers were found to be 
just as scarce in my fields as in the Center's fields, which 
are sprayed countless times with a variety of deadly 

The professor was also surprised to find that while the 
harmful insects were few, their natural predators were far 
more numerous in my fields than in the sprayed fields. 
Then it dawned on him that the fields were being 
maintained in this state by means of a natural balance 
established among the various insect communities. He 
acknowledged that if my method were generally adopted, 
the problem of crop devastation by leaf-hoppers could be 
solved. He then got into his car and returned to Kochi. 

But if you ask whether or not the testing center's soil 
fertility or crop specialists have come here, the answer is 
no, they have not. And if you were to suggest at a 
conference or gathering that this method, or rather non- 
method, be tried on a wide scale, it is my guess that the 
prefecture or research station would reply, "Sorry, it's too 
early for that. We must first carry out research from every 
possible angle before giving final approval." It would take 
years for a conclusion to come down. 

This sort of thing goes on all the time. Specialists and 
technicians from all over Japan have come to this farm. 
Seeing the fields from the standpoint of his own specialty, 
every one of these researchers has found them at least 
satisfactory, if not remarkable. But in the five or six years 

since the professor from the research station came to visit 
here, there have been few changes in Kochi Prefecture. 

This year the agricultural department of Kinki 
University has set up a natural farming project team in 
which students of several different departments will come 
here to conduct investigations. This approach may be one 
step nearer, but I have a feeling that the next move may be 
two steps in the opposite direction. 

Self-styled experts often comment, "The basic idea of 
the method is all right, but wouldn't it be more convenient 
to harvest by machine?" or, "Wouldn't the yield be greater 
if you used fertilizer or pesticide in certain cases or at 
certain times?" There are always those who try to mix 
natural and scientific farming. But this way of thinking 
completely misses the point. The farmer who moves toward 
compromise can no longer criticize science at the 
fundamental level. 

Natural farming is gentle and easy and indicates a 
return to the source of farming. A single step away from 
the source can only lead one astray. 

Humanity Does Not Know Nature 

Lately I have been thinking that the point must be 
reached when scientists, politicians, artists, philosophers, 
men of religion, and all those who work in the fields should 
gather here, gaze out over these fields, and talk things over 
together. I think this is the kind of thing that must happen if 
people are to see beyond their specialties. 

Scientists think they can understand nature. That is the 
stand they take. Because they are convinced that they can 
understand nature, they are committed to investigating 
nature and putting it to use. But I think an understanding of 
nature lies beyond the reach of human intelligence. 

I often tell the young people in the huts on the 
mountain, who come here to help out and to learn about 
natural farming, that anybody can see the trees up on the 
mountain. They can see the green of the leaves; they can 
see the rice plants. They think they know what green is. In 
contact with nature morning and night, they sometimes 
come to think that they know nature. But when they think 
they are beginning to understand nature, they can be sure 
that they are on the wrong track. 

Why is it impossible to know nature? That which is 
conceived to be nature is only the idea of nature arising in 
each person's mind. The ones who see true nature are 
infants. They see without thinking, straight and clear. If 
even the names of plants are known, a mandarin orange 
tree of the citrus family, a pine of the pine family, nature is 
not seen in its true form. 

An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the 
real thing. 

Specialists in various fields gather together and 
observe a stalk of rice. The insect disease specialist sees 
only insect damage, the specialist in plant nutrition 
considers only the plant's vigor. This is unavoidable as 
things are now. 

As an example, I told the gentleman from the research 
station when he was investigating the relation between rice 
leaf-hoppers and spiders in my fields, "Professor, since you 
are researching spiders, you are interested in only one 
among the many natural predators of the leaf-hopper. This 
year spiders appeared in great numbers, but last year it was 
toads. Before that, it was frogs that predominated. There 
are countless variations." 

It is impossible for specialized research to grasp the 
role of a single predator at a certain time within the 
intricacy of insect inter-relationships. There are seasons 

when the leaf-hopper population is low because there are 
many spiders. There are times when a lot of rain falls and 
frogs cause the spiders to disappear, or when little rain falls 
and neither leaf-hoppers nor frogs appear at all. 

Methods of insect control which ignore the 
relationships among the insects themselves are truly 
useless. Research on spiders and leaf-hoppers must also 
consider the relation between frogs and spiders. When 
things have reached this point, a frog professor will also be 
needed. Experts on spiders and leaf-hoppers, another on 
rice, and another expert on water management will all have 
to join the gathering. 

Furthermore, there are four or five different kinds of 
spiders in these fields. I remember a few years ago when 
somebody came rushing over to the house early one 
morning to ask me if I had covered my fields with a silk net 
or something. I could not imagine what he was talking 
about, so I hurried straight out to take a look. 

We had just finished harvesting the rice, and 
overnight the rice stubble and low-lying grasses had 
become completely covered with spider webs, as though 
with silk. Waving and sparkling with the morning mist, it 
was a magnificent sight. 

The wonder of it is that when this happens, as it does 
only once in a great while, it only lasts for a day or two. If 
you look closely there are several spiders in every square 
inch. They are so thick on the field that there is hardly any 
space between them. In a quarter acre there must be how 
many thousands, how many millions! When you go to look 
at the field two or three days later, you see that strands of 
web several yards long have broken off and are waving 
about in the wind with five or six spiders clinging to each 
one. It is like when dandelion fluff or pine cone seeds are 
blown away in the wind. The young spiders cling to the 
strands and are sent sailing off in the sky. 

The spectacle is an amazing natural drama. Seeing 
this, you understand that poets and artists will also have to 
join in the gathering. 

When chemicals are put into a field, this is all 
destroyed in an instant. I once thought there would be 
nothing wrong with putting ashes from the fireplace onto 
the fields.* The result was astounding. Two or three days 
later the field was completely bare of spiders. The ashes 
had caused the strands of web to disintegrate. How many 
thousands of spiders fell victim to a single handful of this 
apparently harmless ash? Applying an insecticide is not 
simply a matter of eliminating the leaf-hoppers together 
with their natural predators. Many other essential dramas of 
nature are affected. 

The phenomenon of these great swarms of spiders, 
which appear in the rice fields in the autumn and like 
escape artists vanish overnight, is still not understood. No 
one knows where they come from, how they survive the 
winter, or where they go when they disappear. 

And so the use of chemicals is not a problem for the 
entomologist alone. Philosophers, men of religion, artists 
and poets must also help to decide whether or not it is 
permissible to use chemicals in farming, and what the 
results of using even organic fertilizers might be. 

We will harvest about 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) of 
rice, and 22 bushels of winter grain from each quarter acre 
of this land. If the harvest reaches 19 bushels, as it 
sometimes does, you might not be able to find a greater 
harvest if you searched the whole country. Since advanced 
technology had nothing to do with growing this grain, it 
stands as a contradiction to the assumptions of modern 
science. Anyone who will come and see these fields and 
accept their testimony, will feel deep misgivings over the 
question of whether or not humans know nature, and of 
whether or not nature can be known within the confines of 
human understanding. 

The irony is that science has served only to show how 
small human knowledge is. 

*Mr. Fukuoka makes compost of his wood ashes and other organic 
household wastes. He applies this to his small kitchen garden. 

Four Principles of Natural Farming 

Make your way carefully through these fields. 
Dragonflies and moths fly up in a flurry. Honeybees buzz 
from blossom to blossom. Part the leaves and you will see 
insects, spiders, frogs, lizards and many other small 
animals bustling about in the cool shade. Moles and 
earthworms burrow beneath the surface. 

This is a balanced rice field ecosystem. Insect and 
plant communities maintain a stable relationship here. It is 
not uncommon for a plant disease to sweep through this 
area, leaving the crops in these fields unaffected. 

And now look over at the neighbor's field for a 
moment. The weeds have all been wiped out by herbicides 
and cultivation. The soil animals and insects have been 
exterminated by poison. The soil has been burned clean of 
organic matter and microorganisms by chemical fertilizers. 
In the summer you see farmers at work in the fields, 
wearing gas masks and long rubber gloves. These rice 
fields, which have been farmed continuously for over 1,500 
years, have now been laid waste by the exploitive farming 
practices of a single generation. 

Four Principles 

The first is NO cultivation, that is, no plowing or 
turning of the soil. For centuries, farmers have assumed 
that the plow is essential for growing crops. However, non- 
cultivation is fundamental to natural farming. The earth 
cultivates itself naturally by means of the penetration of 
plant roots and the activity of microorganisms, small 
animals, and earthworms. 

PREPARED COMPOST.* People interfere with nature, 
and, try as they may, they cannot heal the resulting wounds. 
Their careless farming practices drain the soil of essential 
nutrients and the result is yearly depletion of the land. If 
left to itself, the soil maintains its fertility naturally, in 
accordance with the orderly cycle of plant and animal life. 

The third is no weeding by tillage or herbicides. 
Weeds play their part in building soil fertility and in 
balancing the biological community. As a fundamental 
principle, weeds should be controlled, not eliminated. 
Straw mulch, a ground cover of white clover interplanted 

*For fertilizer Mr. Fukuoka grows a leguminous ground cover of white 
clover, returns the threshed straw to the fields, and adds a little poultry 

with the crops, and temporary flooding provide effective 
weed control in my fields. 

The fourth is no dependence on chemicals.** From 
the time that weak plants developed as a result of such 
unnatural practices as plowing and fertilizing, disease and 
insect imbalance became a great problem in agriculture. 
Nature, left alone, is in perfect balance. Harmful insects 
and plant diseases are always present, but do not occur in 
nature to an extent which requires the use of poisonous 
chemicals. The sensible approach to disease and insect 
control is to grow sturdy crops in a healthy environment. 


When the soil is cultivated the natural environment is 
altered beyond recognition. The repercussions of such acts 
have caused the farmer nightmares for countless 
generations. For example, when a natural area is brought 
under the plow very strong weeds such as crabgrass and 
docks sometimes come to dominate the vegetation. When 
these weeds take hold, the farmer is faced with a nearly 
impossible task of weeding each year. Very often, the land 
is abandoned. 

In coping with problems such as these, the only 
sensible approach is to discontinue the unnatural practices 
which have brought about the situation in the first place. 
The farmer also has a responsibility to repair the damage he 
has caused. Cultivation of the soil should be discontinued. 
If gentle measures such as spreading straw and sowing 
clover are practiced, instead of using man-made chemicals 
and machinery to wage a war of annihilation, then the 
environment will move back toward its natural balance and 
even troublesome weeds can be brought under control. 


I have been known, in chatting with soil fertility 
experts, to ask, "If a field is left to itself, will the soil's 
fertility increase or will it become depleted?" They usually 
pause and say something like, "Well, let's see . . . It'll 
become depleted. No, not when you remember that when 
rice is grown for a long time in the same field without 
fertilizer, the harvest settles at about 9 bushels (525 
pounds) per quarter acre. The earth would become neither 
enriched nor depleted." 

* * Mr. Fukuoka grows his grain crops without chemicals of any kind. 
On some orchard trees he occasionally uses a machine oil emulsion for 
the control of insect scales. He uses no persistent or broad-spectrum 
poisons, and has no pesticide "program." 

These specialists are referring to a cultivated, flooded 
field. If nature is left to itself, fertility increases. Organic 
remains of plants and animals accumulate and are 
decomposed on the surface by bacteria and fungi. With the 
movement of rainwater, the nutrients are taken deep into 
the soil to become food for microorganisms, earthworms, 
and other small animals. Plant roots reach to the lower soil 
strata and draw the nutrients back up to the surface. 

If you want to get an idea of the natural fertility of the 
earth, take a walk to the wild mountainside sometime and 
look at the giant trees that grow without fertilizer and 
without cultivation. The fertility of nature, as it is, is 
beyond reach of the imagination. 

Cut down the natural forest cover, plant Japanese red 
pine or cedar trees for a few generations, and the soil will 
become depleted and open to erosion. On the other hand, 
take a barren mountain with poor, red clay soil, and plant 
pine or cedar with a ground cover of clover and alfalfa. As 
the green manure* enriches and softens the soil, weeds and 
bushes grow up below the trees, and a rich cycle of 
regeneration is begun. There are instances in which the top 
four inches of soil have become enriched in less than ten 

* Ground cover drops such as clover, vetch and alfalfa which condition 
and nourish the soil 

For growing agricultural crops, also, the use of 
prepared fertilizer can be discontinued. For the most part, a 
permanent green manure cover and the return of all the 
straw and chaff to the soil will be sufficient. To provide 
animal manure to help decompose the straw, I used to let 
ducks loose in the fields. If they are introduced as 
ducklings while the seedlings are still young, the ducks will 
grow up together with the rice. Ten ducks will supply all 
the manure necessary for a quarter acre and will also help 
to control the weeds. 

I did this for many years until the construction of a 
national highway made it impossible for the ducks to get 
across the road and back to the coop. Now I use a little 
chicken manure to help decompose the straw. In other areas 
ducks or other small grazing animals are still a practical 

Adding too much fertilizer can lead to problems. One 
year, right after the rice transplanting, I contracted to rent 1 
1 Va acres of freshly planted rice fields for a period of one 
year. I ran all the water out of the fields and proceeded 
without chemical fertilizer, applying only a small amount 
of chicken manure. Four of the fields developed normally. 
But in the fifth, no matter what I did, the rice plants came 
up too thickly and were attacked by blast disease. When I 
asked the owner about this, he said he had used the field 
over the winter as a dump for chicken manure. 

* Ground cover crops such as clover, vetch, and 
alfalfa which condition and nourish the soil. 

Using straw, green manure, and a little poultry 
manure, one can get high yields without adding compost or 
commercial fertilizer at all. For several decades now, I have 
been sitting back, observing nature's method of cultivation 
and fertilization. And while watching, I have been reaping 
bumper crops of vegetables, citrus, rice, and winter grain as 
a gift, so to speak, from the natural fertility of the earth. 

Coping with Weeds 

Here are some key points to remember in dealing with 

As soon as cultivation is discontinued, the number of 
weeds decreases sharply. Also, the varieties of weeds in a 
given field will change. 

If seeds are sown while the preceding crop is still 
ripening in the field, those seeds will germinate ahead of 
the weeds. Winter weeds sprout only after the rice has been 
harvested, but by that time the winter grain already has a 
head start. Summer weeds sprout right after the harvest of 
barley and rye, but the rice is already growing strongly. 
Timing the seeding in such a way that there is no interval 

between succeeding crops gives the grain a great advantage 
over the weeds. Directly after the harvest, if the whole field 
is covered with straw, the germination of weeds is stopped 
short. White clover sowed with the grain as a ground cover 
also helps to keep weeds under control. The usual way to 
deal with weeds is to cultivate the soil. But when you 
cultivate, seeds lying deep in the soil, which would never 
have germinated otherwise, are stirred up and given a 
chance to sprout. Furthermore, the quick-sprouting, fast- 
growing varieties are given the advantage under these 
conditions. So you might say that the farmer who tries to 
control weeds by cultivating the soil is, quite literally, 
sowing the seeds of his own misfortune. 

"Pest" Control 

Let us say that there are still some people who think 
that if chemicals are not used their fruit trees and field 
crops will wither before their very eyes. The fact of the 
matter is that by using these chemicals, people have 
unwittingly brought about the conditions in which this 
unfounded fear may become reality. 

Recently Japanese red pines have been suffering 
severe damage from an outbreak of pine bark weevils. 
Foresters are now using helicopters in an attempt to stop 
the damage by aerial spraying. I do not deny that this is 
effective in the short run, but I know there must be another 

Weevil blights, according to the latest research, are 
not a direct infestation, but follow upon the action of 
mediating nematodes. The nematodes breed within the 
trunk, block the transport of water and nutrients, and 
eventually cause the pine to wither and die. The ultimate 
cause, of course, is not yet clearly understood. 

Nematodes feed on a fungus within the tree's trunk. 
Why did this fungus begin to spread so prolifically within 
the tree? Did the fungus begin to multiply after the 
nematode had already appeared? Or did the nematode 
appear because the fungus was already present? It boils 
down to a question of which came first, the fungus or the 

Furthermore, there is another microbe about which 
very little is known, which always accompanies the fungus, 
and a virus toxic to the fungus. Effect following effect in 
every direction, the only thing that can be said with 
certainly is that the pine trees are withering in unusual 

People cannot know what the true cause of the pine 
blight is, nor can they know the ultimate consequences of 
their "remedy." If the situation is meddled with 

unknowingly that only sows the seeds for the next great 
catastrophe. No, I cannot rejoice in the knowledge that 
immediate damage from the weevil has been reduced by 
chemical spraying. Using agricultural chemicals is the most 
inept way to deal with problems such as these, and will 
only lead to greater problems in the future. 

These four principles of natural farming (no 
cultivation, no chemical fertilizer or prepared compost, no 
weeding by tillage or herbicides, and no dependence on 
chemicals) comply with the natural order and lead to the 
replenishment of nature's richness. All my rumblings have 
run along this line of thought. It is the heart of my method 
of growing vegetables, grain, and citrus. 

Farming Among the Weeds 

Many different kinds of weeds are growing with the 
grain and clover in these fields. Rice straw spread over the 
field last fall has already decomposed into rich humus. The 
harvest will yield about 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) to the 
quarter acre. 

Yesterday, when Professor Kawase, a leading 
authority on pasture grasses, and Professor Hiroe, who is 
researching ancient plants, saw the fine spread of barley 
and green manure in my fields, they called it a wonderful 
work of art. A local farmer who had expected to see my 
fields completely overgrown by weeds was surprised to 
find the barley growing so vigorously among the many 
other plants. Technical experts have also come here, seen 
the weeds, seen the watercress and clover growing all 
around, and have gone away shaking their heads in 

Twenty years ago, when I was encouraging the use of 
permanent ground cover in fruit orchards, there was not a 
blade of grass to be seen in fields or orchards anywhere in 
the country. Seeing orchards such as mine, people came to 
understand that fruit trees could grow quite well among the 
weeds and grasses. Today orchards covered with grasses 
are common throughout Japan and those without grass 
cover have become rare. 

It is the same with fields of grain. Rice, barley, and 
rye can be successfully grown while the fields are covered 
with clover and weeds all year long. 

Let me review in greater detail the annual seeding and 
harvesting schedule in these fields. In early October, before 
the harvest, white clover and the seeds of fast-growing 
varieties of winter grain are broadcast among the ripening 
stalks of rice.* The clover and barley or rye sprout and 
grow an inch or two by the time the rice is ready to be 
harvested. During the rice harvest, the sprouted seeds are 
trampled by the feet of the harvesters, but recover in no 
time at all. When the threshing is completed, the rice straw 
is spread over the field. 

* White clover is sown about one pound per quarter acre, winter grains 
6/4 to 13 pounds per quarter acre. For inexperienced farmers or fields 
with hard or poor soil, it is safer to sow more seed in the beginning. As 
the soil gradually improves from the decomposing straw and green 
manure, and as the farmer becomes more familiar with the direct 
seeding non-cultivation method, the amount of seed can be reduced. 

"In one day it is possible to make enough pellets to seed several acres." 

If rice is sown in the autumn and left uncovered, the 
seeds are often eaten by mice and birds, or they sometimes 
rot on the ground, and so I enclose the rice seeds in little 
clay pellets before sowing. The seed is spread out on a flat 
pan or basket and shaken back and forth in a circular 
motion. Fine powdered clay is dusted over them and a thin 
mist of water is added from time to time. This forms a tiny 
pellet about a half inch in diameter. 

In October, after the rice is harvested and the next year's seed is sown, 
straw is scattered across the field. 

There is another method for making the pellets. First 
the unhulled rice seed is soaked for several hours in water. 
The seeds are removed and mixed with moist clay by 
kneeding with hands or feet. Then the clay is pushed 
through a screen of chicken wire to separate it into small 
clods. The clods should be left to dry for a day or two or 
until they can be easily rolled between the palms into 
pellets. Ideally there is one seed in each pellet. In one day it 
is possible to make enough pellets to seed several acres. 

Depending on conditions, I sometimes enclose the 
seeds of other grains and vegetables in pellets before 

Between mid-November and mid-December is a good 
time to broadcast the pellets containing the rice seed among 
the young barley or rye plants, but they can also be 
broadcast in spring.* A thin layer of chicken manure is 
spread over the field to help decompose the straw, and the 
year's planting is complete. 

In May the winter grain is harvested. After threshing, 
all of the straw is scattered over the field. 

Water is then allowed to stand in the field for a week 
or ten days. This causes the weeds and clover to weaken 
and allows the rice to sprout up through the straw. Rain 
water alone is sufficient for the plants during June and July; 
in August fresh water is run through the field about once a 
week without being allowed to stand. The autumn harvest 
is now at hand. 

Such is the yearly cycle of rice/winter grain 
cultivation by the natural method. The seeding and 
harvesting so closely follow the natural pattern that it could 
be considered a natural process rather than an agricultural 

It takes only an hour or two for one farmer to sow the 
seeds and spread the straw across a quarter acre. With the 
exception of the job of harvesting, winter grain can be 
grown single-handedly, and just two or three people can do 
all the work necessary to grow a field of rice using only the 
traditional Japanese tools. There is probably no easier, 
simpler method for growing grain. It involves little more 
than broadcasting seed and spreading straw, but it has taken 
me over thirty years to reach this simplicity. 

*Rice is sown 4!4 to 9 pounds per quarter acre. Toward the end of April 
Mr. Fukuoka checks the germination of the fall-sown seed and 
broadcasts more pellets as needed. Also see footnote, pg. 42. 

This way of farming has evolved according to the 
natural conditions of the Japanese islands, but I feel that 
natural farming could also be applied in other areas and to 
the raising of other indigenous crops. In areas where water 
is not so readily available, for example, upland rice or other 
grains such as buckwheat, sorghum or millet might be 
grown. Instead of white clover, another variety of clover, 
alfalfa, vetch or lupine might prove a more suitable field 
cover. Natural farming takes a distinctive form in 
accordance with the unique conditions of the area in which 
it is applied. 

By December the winter grain sprouts through the straw; the rice seeds 
remain dormant until spring. 

In making the transition to this kind of farming, some 
weeding, composting or pruning may be necessary at first, 
but these measures should be gradually reduced each year. 
Ultimately, it is not the growing technique which is the 
most important factor, but rather the state of mind of the 

The winter grain is harvested in May. The rice seedlings are trampled 
by the feet of the harvesters but soon recover. 

Farming with Straw 

Spreading straw might be considered rather 
unimportant, but it is fundamental to my method of 
growing rice and winter grain. It is connected with 
everything, with fertility, with germination, with weeds, 
with keeping away sparrows, with wate3r management. In 
actual practice and in theory, the use of straw in farming is 
a crucial issue. This is something that I cannot seem to get 
people to understand. 

Spreading the Straw Uncut 

The Okayama Testing Center is now trying direct 
seeding rice-growing in 80 percent of its experimental 
fields. When I suggested that they scatter the straw uncut, 
they apparently thought this could not be right, and ran the 
experiments after chopping it up with a mechanical 
shredder. When I went to visit the testing a few years ago, I 
found that the fields had been divided into those using 
shredded straw, uncut straw, and no straw at all. This is 
exactly what I did for a long time and since the uncut 
works best, it is uncut straw that I use. 

Mr. Fujii, a teacher at Yasuki Agricultural High 
School in Shimane Prefecture, wanted to try direct seeding 
and came to visit my farm. I suggested that he spread uncut 
straw over his field. He returned the next year and reported 
that the test had failed. After listening carefully to his 
account, I found that he had laid the straw down straight 
and neat like a Japanese backyard garden mulch. If you do 
it like that, the seeds will not germinate well at all. With the 
straw of rye and barley, too, if it is spread too neatly the 
rice sprouts will have a hard time getting through. It is best 
to toss the straw around every which way, just as though 
the stalks had fallen naturally. 

Rice straw works well as a mulch for winter grain, 
and the straw of winter grain works best for the rice. I want 
this to be well understood. There are several diseases of 
rice which will infect the crop if fresh rice straw is applied 
to the field. These diseases of rice will not infect the winter 
grain, however, and if the rice straw is spread in the fall, it 
will be completely decomposed by the time the rice sprouts 
up the following spring. Fresh rice straw is safe for other 
grains, as is buckwheat straw, and the straw of other grain 
species may be used for rice and buckwheat. In general, 
fresh straw of winter grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley, 
should not be used as mulch for other winter grains, as 
disease damage may result. 

All of the straw and the hulls which remain after 
threshing the previous harvest should be returned to the 

Straw Enriches the Earth 

Scattering straw maintains soil structure and enriches 
the earth so that prepared fertilizer becomes unnecessary. 
This, of course, is connected with non-cultivation. My 
fields may be the only ones in Japan which have not been 
plowed for over twenty years, and the quality of the soil 
improves with each season. I would estimate that the 
surface layer, rich in humus, has become enriched to a 
depth of more than four inches during these years. This is 
largely the result of returning to the soil everything grown 
in the field but the grain itself. 

No Need to Prepare Compost 

There is no need to prepare compost. I will not say 
that you do not need compost — only that there is no need to 
work hard making it. If straw is left lying on the surface of 
the field in the spring or fall and is covered with a thin 
layer of chicken manure or duck droppings, in six months it 
will completely decompose. 

To make compost by the usual method, the farmer 
works like crazy in the hot sun, chopping up the straw, 
adding water and lime, turning the pile, and hauling it out 
to the field. He puts himself through all this grief because 
he thinks it is a "better way." I would rather see people just 
scattering straw or hulls or woodchips over their fields. 

Travelling along the Tokaido line in western Japan I 
have noticed that the straw is being cut more coarsely than 
when I first started talking about spreading it uncut. I have 
to give the farmers credit. But the modern day experts are 
still saying that it is best to use only so many hundred 
pounds of straw per quarter acre. Why don't they say to put 
all the straw back in the field? Looking out the train 
window, you can see farmers who have cut and scattered 
about half the straw and cast the rest aside to rot in the rain. 

If all the farmers in Japan got together and started to 
put all the straw back on their fields, the result would be an 
enormous amount of compost returned to the earth. 


For hundreds of years farmers have taken great care in 
preparing the seed beds for growing strong, healthy rice 
seedlings. The small beds were tidied up as if they were the 
family altars. The earth was cultivated, sand and the ashes 

of burned rice hulls were spread all around, and a prayer 
was offered that the seedlings would thrive. 

Threshing the crop with the traditional pedal-powered rotating drum 
(Kyoto). The grains are then winnowed and stored; the straw is 
returned to the fields. 

It is not unreasonable, then, that the other villagers 
around here thought I was out of my mind to broadcast 
seed while the winter grain was still standing in the field, 
with weeds and bits of decomposing straw scattered 

Of course the seeds germinate well when sown 
directly onto a well-turned field, but if it rains and the field 
turns to mud, you cannot go in and walk around, and the 
sowing must be postponed. The non-cultivation method is 
safe on this score, but on the other hand, there is trouble 
with small animals such as moles, crickets, mice, and slugs 
who like to eat the seeds. The clay pellet enclosing the seed 
solves this problem. 

In seeding winter grain, the usual method is to sow the 
seeds and then cover them with soil. If the seeds are set in 
too deeply, they will rot. I used to drop the seeds into tiny 
holes in the soil, or into furrows without covering them 
with soil, but I experienced many failures with both 

Lately I have gotten lazy and instead of making 
furrows or poking holes in the ground, I wrap the seeds in 
clay pellets and toss them directly onto the field. 
Germination is best on the surface, where there is exposure 
to oxygen. I have found that where these pellets are 
covered with straw, the seeds germinate well and will not 
rot even in years of heavy rainfall. 

Straw Helps to Cope 
with Weeds and Sparrows 

Ideally, one quarter acre will provide about 900 
pounds of barley straw. If all of the straw is spread back 
over the field, the surface will be completely covered. Even 
a troublesome weed such as crabgrass, the most difficult 
problem in the direct seeding non-cultivation method, can 
be held under control. 

Sparrows have caused me a lot of headaches. Direct 
seeding cannot succeed if there is no reliable way to cope 
with the birds, and there are many places where direct 
seeding has been slow to spread for just this reason. Many 
of you may have the same problem with sparrows, and you 
will know what I mean. 

I can remember times when these birds followed right 
behind me and devoured all the seeds I had sown even 
before I had a chance to finish planting the other side of the 
field. I tried scarecrows and nets and strings of rattling 
cans, but nothing seemed to work very well. Or if one of 
these methods happened to work, its effectiveness did not 
last more than a year or two. 

My own experience has shown that by sowing the 
seed while the preceding crop is still in the field so that 
they are hidden among grasses and clover, and by 
spreading a mulch of rice, rye, or barley straw as soon as 
the mature crop has been harvested, the problem of 
sparrows can be dealt with most effectively. 

I have made a lot of mistakes while experimenting 
over the years and have experienced failures of all kinds. I 
probably know more about what can go wrong growing 
agricultural crops than anyone else in Japan. When I 
succeeded for the first time in growing rice and winter 
grain with the non-cultivation method, I felt as joyful as 
Columbus must have felt when he discovered America. 

Growing Rice in a Dry Field 

By the beginning of August, the rice plants in the 
neighbors' fields are already waist high, while the plants in 
my fields are only about half that size. People who visit 
here toward the end of July are always skeptical, and ask, 
"Fukuoka-san, is this rice going to turn out all right?" 
"Sure," I answer. "No need to worry." 

I do not try to raise tall fast-growing plants with big 
leaves. Instead, I keep the plants as compact as possible. 
Keep the head small, do not overnourish the plants, and let 
them grow true to the natural form of the rice plant. 

Usually rice plants three or four feet tall produce 
luxuriant leaves and give the impression that the plant is 
going to produce a lot of grain, but it is only the leafy stalks 
that are growing strongly. Starch production is great but 
efficiency is low, and so much energy is expended in 
vegetative growth that not much is left to be stored in the 
grains. For example, if tall, oversized plants yield 2,000 
pounds of straw the yield of rice will be about 1,000-1,200 
pounds. For small rice plants, such as those grown in my 
fields, 2,000 pounds of straw yields 2,000 pounds of rice. 
In a good harvest the yield of rice from my plants will 
reach about 2,400 pounds; that is, it will be 20 percent 
heavier than the straw. 

Rice plants grown in a dry field do not grow so tall. 
Sunlight is received uniformly, reaching to the base of the 
plants and to the lower leaves. One square inch of leaf is 
enough to produce six grains of rice. Three or four small 
leaves are more than enough to produce a hundred grains of 
rice to the head. I sow a bit thickly and wind up with about 
250-300 grain-bearing stalks (20 to 25 plants) per square 
yard. If you have many sprouts and do not try to grow large 
plants, you can reap great harvests with no difficulty. This 
is also true for wheat, rye, buckwheat, oats, millet, and 
other grains. 

Of course the usual method is to keep several inches 
of water in the paddy throughout the growing season. 
Farmers have been growing rice in water for so many 
centuries that most people believe that it cannot be grown 
any other way. The cultivated varieties of "wet- field" rice 
are relatively strong if grown in a flooded field, but it is not 
good for the plant to be grown in this way. Rice plants 
grow best when the water content in the soil is between 60 
and 80 percent of its water-holding capacity. When the 
field is not flooded plants develop stronger roots and are 
extremely resistant to attacks by disease and insects. 

The main reason for growing rice in a flooded field is 
to control the weeds by creating an environment in which 
only a limited variety of weeds can survive. Those which 
do survive, however, must be pulled by hand or uprooted 
with a hand weeding tool. By the traditional method, this 
time-consuming and backbreaking job must be repeated 
several times in each growing season. 

In June, during the monsoon season, I hold water in 
the field for about one week. Few of the dry-field weeds 
can survive even so short a period without oxygen, and the 
clover also withers and turns yellow. The idea is not to kill 
the clover, but only to weaken it so as to allow the rice 
seedlings to get established. When the water is drained (as 
soon as possible) the clover recovers and spreads to cover 
the field's surface again beneath the growing rice plants. 
After that, I hardly do anything in the way of water 
management. For the first half of the season, I do not 
irrigate at all. Even in years when very little rain falls the 
soil stays moist below the layer of straw and green manure. 
In August I let in water a little at a time but never allow it 
to stand. 

In June water is held in the field to weaken the weeds and clover and 
allow the rice to sprout through the ground cover. 

If you show a rice plant from my field to a farmer he 
will know immediately that it looks as a rice plant should 
and that it has the ideal shape. He will know that the seeds 
were sprouted naturally and not transplanted, that the plant 
could not have been grown in a lot of water, and that 

chemical fertilizer was not applied. Any farmer can tell 
these things as a matter of course by looking at the overall 
form of the plant, the shape of the roots, and the spacing of 
the joints on the main stem. If you understand the ideal 
form, it is just a matter of how to grow a plant of that shape 
under the unique conditions of your own field. 

I do not agree with Professor Matsushima's idea that it 
is best when the fourth leaf from the tip of the plant is the 
longest. Sometimes when the second or third leaf is the 
longest, you get the best results. If growth is held back 
while the plant is young, the top leaf or the second leaf 
often becomes longest and a large harvest is still obtained. 

Professor Matsushima's theory is derived from 
experiments using fragile rice plants grown with fertilizer 
in a nursery bed and later transplanted. My rice, on the 
other hand, was grown in accordance with the natural life 
cycle of the rice plant, just as though it were growing wild. 
I wait patiently for the plant to develop and mature at its 
own pace. 

In recent years I have been trying out an old variety of 
glutinous rice from the south. Each seed, sown in fall, 
produces an average of 12 stalks with about 250 grains per 
head. With this variety I believe I will one day be able to 
reap a harvest close to the greatest theoretically obtainable 
from the solar energy reaching the field. In some areas of 
my fields harvests of 27/4 bushels (1,650 pounds) per 
quarter acre have already been realized with this variety. 

Seen with the doubting eye of the technician, my 
method of growing rice could be said to be a short-term or 
provisional result. "If the experiment were continued 
longer, some sort of problem would certainly show up," he 
might say. But I have been growing rice in this manner for 
over twenty years. The yields continue to increase and the 
soil becomes richer every year. 

Orchard Trees 

I also grow several varieties of citrus on the hillsides 
near my home. After the war, when I first began farming, I 
started with 1% acres of citrus orchard and % acre of rice 
fields, but now the citrus orchards alone cover 12/4 acres. I 
came by this land by taking over surrounding hillsides 
which had been abandoned. I then cleared them by hand. 

The pine trees on several of those slopes had been 
clear-cut a few years earlier, and all I did was dig holes in a 
contour line and plant the citrus seedlings. Sprouts had 
already appeared from the logged stumps and, as time 
passed, Japanese pampas grass, cogon grass, and bracken 
began to thrive. The citrus tree seedlings became lost in a 
tangle of vegetation. 

I cut most of the pine sprouts, but allowed some to 
grow back for a windbreak. Then I cut back the thicket 
growth and grassy ground cover and planted clover. 

After six or seven years the citrus trees finally bore 
fruit. I dug away the earth behind the trees to form terraces, 
and the orchard now appears little different from any other. 

Of course I maintained the principles of not 
cultivating, not using chemical fertilizer, and not using 
insecticides or weed killers. One interesting thing was that, 
at first, while the seedlings were growing beneath the 
resprouted forest trees, there was no evidence of damaging 
insects such as the common arrowhead scale. Once the 
thicket and resprouted trees were cut away, the land 
became less wild and more like an orchard. Only then did 
these insects appear. 

To allow a fruit tree to follow its natural form from 
the beginning is best. The tree will bear fruit every year and 
there is no need to prune. A citrus tree follows the same 
pattern of growth as a cedar or pine, that is, a single central 
trunk growing straight with branches spreading out 
alternately. Of course all varieties of citrus do not grow to 
exactly the same size and shape. The Hassaku and 
Shaddock varieties grow very tall, winter Unshu mandarin 
orange trees are short and stocky, the early varieties of 
Satsuma mandarin orange trees are small at maturity, but 
each has a single central trunk. 

Do Not Kill the Natural Predators 

I think that everyone knows that since the most 
common orchard "pests," ruby scale and horned wax scale, 
have natural enemies, there is no need to apply insecticide 
to keep them under control. At one time the insecticide 

Fusol was used in Japan. The natural predators were 
completely exterminated, and the resulting problems still 
survive in many prefectures. From this experience I think 
most farmers have come to realize that it is undesirable to 
eliminate predators because in the long run greater insect 
damage will result. 

As for the mites and scales which do appear, if a 
solution of machine oil, a chemical relatively harmless to 
the predators, is diluted 200 to 400 times and is sprayed 
lightly in midsummer, and the insect communities are left 
to achieve their natural balance after that, the problem will 
generally take care of itself. This will not work if an 
organic phosphorous pesticide has already been used in 
June or July since the predators are also killed by this 

I am not saying that I advocate the use of so-called 
harmless "organic" sprays such as salt-garlic solution or 
machine oil emulsion, nor am I in favor of introducing 
foreign predator species into the orchard to control 
troublesome insects. Trees weaken and are attacked by 
insects to the extent that they deviate from the natural form. 
If trees are growing along a pattern of unnatural 
development and are left abandoned in this state, the 
branches become tangled and insect damage results. I have 
already told how I wiped out several acres of citrus trees 
this way. 

But if the trees are gradually corrected, they will 
return at least approximately to their natural form. The 
trees become stronger and measures to control insects 
become unnecessary. If a tree is planted carefully and 
allowed to follow the natural form from the beginning, 
there is no need for pruning or sprays of any kind. Most 
seedling trees have been pruned or their roots have been 
damaged at the nursery before they are transplanted to the 
orchard, which makes pruning necessary right from the 

In order to improve the orchard soil, I tried planting 
several varieties of trees. Among them was the Morishima 
acacia. This tree grows year round, putting out new buds in 
all seasons. The aphids which feed on these buds began to 
multiply in great numbers. Lady bugs fed on the aphids and 
soon they too began to increase. After the lady bugs had 
devoured all of the aphids, they climbed down to the citrus 
trees and started to feed on other insects such as mites, 
arrowhead scales, and cottony-cushion scales. 

Growing fruit without pruning, fertilizing, or using 
chemical sprays is possible only within a natural 

Orchard Earth 

It goes without saying that soil improvement is the 
fundamental concern of orchard management. If you use 
chemical fertilizer the trees do grow larger, but year by 
year the soil becomes depleted. Chemical fertilizer drains 
the earth of its vitality. If it is used even for one generation 
the soil suffers considerably. 

There is no wiser course in fanning than the path of 
wholesome soil improvement. Twenty years ago, the face 
of this mountain was bare red clay, so hard you could not 
stick a shovel into it. A good deal of the land around here 
was like that. People grew potatoes until the soil was 
exhausted and then the fields were left abandoned. You 
might say that, rather than growing citrus and vegetables up 
here, I have been helping to restore the fertility of the soil. 

Let us talk about how I went about restoring those 
barren mountain slopes. After the war the technique of 
deeply cultivating a citrus orchard and digging holes for 
adding organic matter was being encouraged. When I 
returned from the testing center, I tried doing this in my 
own orchard. After a few years I came to the conclusion 
that this method is not only physically exhausting, but, as 
far as improving the soil is concerned, is just plain useless. 

At first I buried straw and ferns which I had brought 
down from the mountain. Carrying loads of 90 pounds and 
more was a big job, but after two or three years there was 
not even enough humus to scoop up in my hand. The 
trenches I had dug to bury the organic matter caved in and 
turned into open pits. Next I tried burying wood. It seems 
that straw would be the best aid for improving the soil, but 
judging from the amount of soil formed, wood is better. 
This is fine as long as there are trees to cut. But for 
someone without trees nearby, it is better to grow the wood 
right in the orchard than to haul it from a distance. 

In my orchard there are pines and cedar trees, a few 
pear trees, persimmons, loquats, Japanese cherries, and 
many other native varieties growing among the citrus trees. 
One of the most interesting trees, though not a native, is the 
Morishima acacia. This is the same tree I mentioned earlier 
in connection with lady bugs and natural predator 
protection. The wood is hard, the flowers attract bees, and 
the leaves are good for fodder. It helps to prevent insect 
damage in the orchard, acts as a windbreak, and the 
rhizobium bacteria living within the roots fertilize the soil. 

"Twenty years ago the face of this mountain was bare red clay so hard 
you could not stick a shovel into it." 

This tree was introduced to Japan from Australia 
some years ago and grows faster than any tree I have ever 
seen. It sends out a deep root in just a few months and in 
six or seven years it stands as tall as a telephone pole. In 
addition, this tree is a nitrogen fixer, so if 6 to 10 trees are 
planted to the quarter acre, soil improvement can be carried 
out in the deep soil strata and there is no need to break your 
back hauling logs down the mountain. 

As for the surface layer of the soil, I sowed a mixture 
of white clover and alfalfa on the barren ground. It was 
several years before they could take hold, but finally they 
came up and covered the orchard hillsides. I also planted 
Japanese radish (daikon). The roots of this hearty vegetable 
penetrate deeply into the soil, adding organic matter and 
opening channels for air and water circulation. It reseeds 
itself easily and after one sowing you can almost forget 
about it. 

As the soil became richer, the weeds started to make a 
comeback. After seven or eight years, the clover almost 
disappeared among the weeds, so I tossed out a little more 
clover seed in late summer after cutting back the weeds.* 

As a result of this thick weed / clover cover, over the 
past twenty-five years, the surface layer of the orchard soil, 
which had been hard red clay, has become loose, dark 
colored, and rich with earthworms and organic matter. 

' With the green manure fertilizing the topsoil and the 
roots of the Morishima acacia improving the soil deep 
down, you can do quite well without fertilizer and there is 
no need to cultivate between the orchard trees. With tall 
trees for windbreaks, citrus in the middle, and a green 
manure cover below, I have found a way to take it easy and 
let the orchard manage itself. 

* During the summer Mr. Fukuoka cuts the weeds, briers, and tree 
sprouts growing beneath the orchard trees with a scythe. 

Growing Vegetables Like Wild Plants 

Next let us talk about growing vegetables. One can 
either use a backyard garden to supply kitchen vegetables 
for the household or else grow vegetables on open, unused 

For the backyard garden it is enough to say that you 
should grow the right vegetables at the right time in soil 
prepared by organic compost and manure. The method of 
growing vegetables for the kitchen table in old Japan 
blended well with the natural pattern of life. Children play 
under fruit trees in the backyard. Pigs eat scraps from the 
kitchen and root around in the soil. Dogs bark and play and 
the farmer sows seeds in the rich earth. Worms and insects 
grow up with the vegetables, chickens peck at the worms 
and lay eggs for the children to eat. 

The typical rural family in Japan grew vegetables in 
this way until not more than twenty years ago. 

Plant disease was prevented by growing the traditional 
crops at the right time, keeping the soil healthy by returning 
all organic residues to the soil, and rotating crops. Harmful 
insects were picked off by hand, and also pecked by 
chickens. In southern Shikoku there was a kind of chicken 
that would eat worms and insects on the vegetables without 
scratching the roots or damaging the plants. 

Some people may be skeptical at first about using 
animal manure and human waste, thinking it primitive or 
dirty. Today people want "clean" vegetables, so farmers 
grow them in hothouses without using soil at all. Gravel 
culture, sand culture, and hydroponics are getting more 
popular all the time. The vegetables are grown with 
chemical nutrients and by light which is filtered through a 
vinyl covering. It is strange that people have come to think 
of these vegetables grown chemically as "clean" and safe to 
eat. Foods grown in soil balanced by the action of worms, 
microorganisms, and decomposing animal manure are the 
cleanest and most wholesome of all. 

In growing vegetables in a "semi-wild" way, making 
use of a vacant lot, riverbank or open wasteland, my idea is 
to just toss out the seeds and let the vegetables grow up 
with the weeds. I grow my vegetables on the mountainside 
in the spaces between the citrus trees. 

The important thing is knowing the right time to plant. 
For the spring vegetables the right time is when the winter 
weeds are dying back and just before the summer weeds 

have sprouted.* For the fall sowing, seeds should be tossed 
out when the summer grasses are fading away and the 
winter weeds have not yet appeared. 

It is best to wait for a rain which is likely to last for 
several days. Cut a swath in the weed cover and put out the 
vegetable seeds. There is no need to cover them with soil; 
just lay the weeds you have cut back over the seeds to act 
as a mulch and to hide them from the birds and chickens 
until they can germinate. Usually the weeds must be cut 
back two or three times in order to give the vegetable 
seedlings a head start, but sometimes just once is enough. 

Where the weeds and clover are not so thick, you can 
simply toss out the seeds. The chickens will eat some of 
them, but many will germinate. If you plant in a row or 
furrow, there is a chance that beetles or other insects will 
devour many of the seeds. They walk in a straight line. 
Chickens also spot a patch which has been cleared and 
come to scratch around. It is my experience that it is best to 
scatter the seeds here and there. 

Vegetables grown in this way are stronger than most 
people think. If they sprout up before the weeds, they will 
not be overgrown later on. There are some vegetables, such 
as spinach and carrots, which do not germinate easily. 
Soaking the seeds in water for a day or two, then wrapping 
them in a little clay pellet, should solve the problem. 

If sown a bit heavily, Japanese radish, turnips, and 
various leafy green autumn vegetables will be strong 
enough to compete successfully with the winter and early 
spring weeds. A few always go unharvested, re-seeding 
themselves year after year. They have a unique flavor and 
make very interesting eating. 

It is an amazing sight to see many unfamiliar 
vegetables thriving here and there on the mountain. 
Japanese radishes and turnips grow half in the soil and half 
above the surface. Carrots and burdock often grow short 
and fat with many root hairs, and I believe their tart, 
slightly bitter flavor is that of their original wild 
predecessors. Garlic, Japanese pearl onions, and Chinese 
leeks, once planted, will come up by themselves year after 

* This method of growing vegetables has been developed by Mr. 
Fukuoka by trial and experiment in accordance with local conditions. 
Where he lives there are dependable spring rains, and a climate warm 
enough to grow vegetables in all seasons. Over the years he has come 
to know which vegetables can be grown among which weeds and the 
kind of care each requires. 

In most parts of North America the specific method Mr. Fukuoka uses 
for growing vegetables would be impractical. It is up to each farmer 
who would grow vegetables in the semi-wild manner to develop a 
technique appropriate to the land and the natural vegetation. 

Legumes are best sown in spring. Cowpeas and 
kidney beans are easy to grow and give high yields. In 
growing peas, red azuki beans, soy beans, pinto beans, and 
kidney beans, early germination is essential. They will have 
difficulty germinating without enough rain, and you must 
keep an eye out for birds and insects. 

Tomatoes and eggplants are not strong enough to 
compete with the weeds when they are young, and so 
should be grown in a starter bed and later transplanted. 
Instead of staking them up, let the tomatoes run along the 
ground. Roots will grow down from the nodes along the 
main stem and new shoots will come up and bear fruit. 

As for the cucumbers, the creeping-on-the-ground 
variety is best. You have to take care of the young plants, 
occasionally cutting the weeds, but after that, the plants 
will grow strong. Lay out bamboo, or the branches of a tree 
and the cucumbers will twine all over them. The branches 
keep the fruit just above the ground so that it does not rot. 

This method of growing cucumbers also works for 
melons and squash. 

Potatoes and taros are very strong plants. Once 
planted they will come up in the same place every year and 
never be overgrown by weeds. Just leave a few in the 
ground when you harvest. If the soil is hard, grow Japanese 
radish first. As their roots grow they cultivate and soften 
the earth and after a few seasons, potatoes can be grown in 
their place. 

I have found white clover useful in holding back 
weeds. It grows thickly and can smother out even strong 
weeds such as mugwort and crabgrass. If the clover is sown 
mixed with the vegetable seeds, it will act as a living 
mulch, enriching the soil, and keeping the ground moist 
and well aerated. 

As with vegetables, it is important to choose the right 
time to sow the clover seed. Late summer or fall sowing is 
best; the roots develop during the cold months, giving the 
clover a jump on the annual spring grasses. The clover will 
also do well if sown early in spring. Either broadcasting or 
planting in rows about twelve inches apart is fine. Once the 
clover takes hold, you do not need to sow it again for five 
or six years. 

The main aim of this semi-wild vegetable growing is 
to grow crops as naturally as possible on land which would 
otherwise be left unused. If you try to use improved 
techniques or to get bigger yields the attempt will end in 
failure. In most cases the failure will be caused by insects 
or diseases. If various kinds of herbs and vegetables are 
mixed together and grown among the natural vegetation, 
damage by insects and diseases will be minimal and there 
will be no need to use sprays or to pick bugs off by hand. 

You can grow vegetables anyplace there is a varied 
and vigorous growth of weeds. It is important to become 
familiar with the yearly cycle and growing pattern of the 
weeds and grasses. By looking at the variety and the size of 
the weeds in a certain area you can tell what kind of soil is 
there and whether or not a deficiency exists. 

In my orchard I grow burdock, cabbage, tomatoes, 
carrots, mustard, beans, turnips and many other kinds of 
herbs and vegetables in this semi-wild way. 

The Terms for Abandoning Chemicals 

Today Japanese rice growing stands at an important 
crossroads. Farmers and specialists are confused as to 
which path to follow — to continue paddy transplanting, or 
to move over to direct seeding, and if the latter, to choose 
cultivation or non-cultivation. I have been saying for the 
past twenty years that direct seeding non-cultivation will 
eventually prove to be the best way. The speed with which 
direct seeding is already spreading in Okayama Prefecture 
is eye-opening. 

There are those, however, who say that turning to a 
non-chemical agriculture to supply the nation's food is 
unthinkable. They say that chemical treatments must be 
used to control the three great rice diseases — stem rot, rice 
blast disease, and bacterial leaf blight. But if farmers would 
stop using weak, "improved" seed varieties, stop adding too 
much nitrogen to the soil, and reduce the amount of 
irrigation water so that strong roots could develop, these 
diseases would all but disappear and chemical sprays 
would become unnecessary. 

At first, the red clay soil in my fields was weak and 
unsuited for growing rice. Brown spot disease frequently 
occurred. But as the field gradually grew in fertility, the 
incidence of brown spot disease decreased. Lately there 
have been no outbreaks at all. 

With insect damage the situation is the same. The 
most important thing is not to kill the natural predators. 
Keeping the field continuously under water or irrigating 
with stagnant or polluted water will also lead to insect 
problems. The most troublesome insect pests, summer and 
fall leaf-hoppers, can be kept under control by keeping 
water out of the field. 

Green rice leaf-hoppers, living in the weeds over the 
winter, may become a virus host. If this happens the result 
is often a loss of ten to twenty percent from rice blast 
disease. If chemicals are not sprayed, however, there will 
be many spiders present in the field and one can generally 
leave the work to them. Spiders are sensitive to even the 
slightest human tampering and care must always be taken 
on this account. 

Most people think that if chemical fertilizer and 
insecticides were abandoned agricultural yields would fall 
to a fraction of the present level. Experts on insect damage 
estimate that losses in the first year after giving up 
insecticides would be about five percent. Loss of another 

five percent in abandoning chemical fertilizer would 
probably not be far mistaken. 

That is, if the use of water in the rice field were 
curtailed, and the chemical fertilizer and pesticide spraying 
encouraged by the Agricultural Co-op were abandoned, the 
average losses in the first year would probably reach about 
ten percent. The recuperative power of nature is great 
beyond imagining and after this initial loss, I believe 
harvests would increase and eventually surpass their 
original level. 

While I was with the Kochi Testing Station, I carried 
out experiments in the prevention of stem borers. These 
insects enter and feed on the stem of the rice plant, causing 
the stalk to turn white and wither. The method of 
estimating the damage is simple: you count how many 
white stalks or rice there are. In a hundred plants, ten or 
twenty percent of the stalks may be white. In severe cases, 
when it appears as though the whole crop has been ruined, 
the actual damage is about thirty percent. 

To try to avoid this loss, one field of rice was sprayed 
with insecticide to kill the stem borers; another field was 
left untreated. When the results were calculated it turned 
out that the untreated field with many withered stalks had 
the higher yield. At first I could not believe it myself and 
thought it was an experimental error. But the data appeared 
to be accurate, so I investigated further. 

What happened was that by attacking the weaker 
plants the stem borers produced a kind of thinning effect. 
The withering of some stems left more room for the- rest of 
the plants. Sunlight was then able to penetrate to the lower 
leaves. These remaining rice plants grew more strongly as a 
result, sent up more grain-bearing stalks, and produced 
more grains to the head than they could have without the 
thinning. When the density of stalks is too great and insects 
do not thin out the excess, the plants look healthy enough, 
but in many cases the harvest is actually lower. 

Looking at the many research testing center reports 
you can find the results of using practically every chemical 
spray on record. But it is generally not realized that only 
half of these results are reported. Of course there is no 
intention of hiding anything, but when the results are 
published by the chemical companies as in advertisements, 
it is the same as if the conflicting data had been concealed. 
Results which show lower yields, as in the experiment with 
the stem borers, are checked off as experimental 
discrepancies and discarded. There are, of course, cases in 
which insect extermination results in increased yields, but 
there are other cases in which the yield is reduced. Reports 
of the latter rarely appear in print. 

Among agricultural chemicals, herbicides are 
probably the most difficult to dissuade farmers from using. 
Since ancient times the farmer has been afflicted with what 
might be termed "the battle against the weeds." Plowing, 
cultivating between the rows, the ritual of rice transplanting 
itself, all are mainly aimed at eliminating weeds. Before the 
development of herbicides, a farmer had to walk many 
miles through the flooded rice fields each season, pushing a 
weeding tool up and down the rows and pulling weeds by 
hand. It is easy to understand why these chemicals were 
received as a godsend. In the use of straw and clover and 
the temporary flooding of the fields, I have found a simple 
way to control weeds without either the hot, hard labor of 
weeding or the use of chemicals. 

A mudwalled hut in the orchard. 

Limits of the Scientific Method 

Before researchers become researchers they should 
become philosophers. They should consider what the 
human goal is, what it is that humanity should create. 
Doctors should first determine at the fundamental level 
what it is that human beings depend on for life. 

In applying my theories to farming, I have been 
experimenting in growing my crops in various ways, 
always with the idea of developing a method close to 
nature. I have done this by whittling away unnecessary 
agricultural practices. 

Modern scientific agriculture, on the other hand, has 
no such vision. Research wanders about aimlessly, each 
researcher seeing just one part of the infinite array of 
natural factors which affect harvest yields. Furthermore, 
these natural factors change from place to place and from 
year to year. 

Even though it is the same quarter acre, the farmer 
must grow his crops differently each year in accordance 
with variations in weather, insect populations, the condition 
of the soil, and many other natural factors. Nature is 
everywhere in perpetual motion; conditions are never 
exactly the same in any two years. 

Modern research divides nature into tiny pieces and 
conducts tests that conform neither with natural law nor 
with practical experiences. The results are arranged for the 
convenience of research, not according to the needs of the 
farmer. To think that these conclusions can be put to use 
with invariable success in the farmer's field is a big 

Recently Professor Tsuno of Ehime University wrote 
a lengthy book on the relationship of plant metabolism to 
rice harvests. This professor often comes to my field, digs 
down a few feet to check the soil, brings students along to 
measure the angle of sunlight and shade and whatnot, and 
takes plant specimens back to the lab for analysis. I often 
ask him, "When you go back, are you going to try non- 
cultivation direct seeding?" He laughingly answers, "No, 
I'll leave the applications to you. I'm going to stick to 

So that is how it is. You study the function of the 
plant's metabolism and its ability to absorb nutrients from 
the soil, write a book, and get a doctorate in agricultural 
science. But do not ask if your theory of assimilation is 
going to be relevant to the yield. 

Even if you can explain how metabolism affects the 
productivity of the top leaf when the average temperature is 

eighty-four degrees (Fahrenheit), there are places where the 
temperature is not eighty-four degrees. And if the 
temperature is eighty-four degrees in Ehime this year, next 
year it may only be seventy-five degrees. To say that 
simply stepping up metabolism will increase starch 
formation and produce a large harvest is a mistake. The 
geography and topography of the land, the condition of the 
soil, its structure, texture, and drainage, exposure to 
sunlight, insect relationships, the variety of seed used, the 
method of cultivation — truly an infinite variety of factors — 
must all be considered. A scientific testing method which 
takes all relevant factors into account is an impossibility. 

You hear a lot of talk these days about the benefits of 
the "Good Rice Movement" and the "Green Revolution." 
Because these methods depend on weak, "improved" seed 
varieties, it becomes necessary for the farmer to apply 
chemicals and insecticides eight or ten times during the 
growing season. In a short time the soil is burned clean of 
microorganisms and organic matter. The life of the soil is 
destroyed and crops come to be dependent on nutrients 
added from the outside in the form of chemical fertilizer. 

It appears that things go better when the farmer 
applies "scientific" techniques, but this does not mean that 
science must come to the rescue because the natural 
fertility is inherently insufficient. It means that rescue is 
necessary because the natural fertility has been destroyed. 

By spreading straw, growing clover, and returning to 
the soil all organic residues, the earth comes to possess all 
the nutrients needed to grow rice and winter grain in the 
same field year after year. By natural farming, fields that 
have already been damaged by cultivation or the use of 
agricultural chemicals can be effectively rehabilitated. 

One Farmer Speaks Out 

There is a great deal of concern in Japan these days, 
and justifiably so, about the deteriorating quality of the 
environment and the resulting contamination of food. 
Citizens have organized boycotts and large demonstrations 
to protest the indifference of political and industrial leaders. 
But all of this activity, if carried out in the present spirit, 
only results in wasted effort. To talk about cleaning up 
specific cases of pollution is like treating symptoms of a 
disease while the root cause of the malady continues to 

Two years ago, for instance, a conference for the 
purpose of discussing pollution was organized by the 
Agricultural Management Research Center, together with 
the Organic Agricultural Council and the Nada Co-op. The 
chairman of the conference was Mr. Teruo Ichiraku, who is 
head of the Japanese Organic Farmers Association, and is 
also one of the most powerful figures in the government's 
Agricultural Co-op. The recommendations of this agency 
as to which crops and seed varieties should be grown, how 
much fertilizer should be used and which chemicals should 
be applied are followed by nearly every village farmer in 

Because such a diversity of influential people were 
taking part, I attended with hopes that far-reaching action 
could be decided upon and put into effect. 

From the standpoint of publicizing the food pollution 
problem, this conference could be said to have been 
successful. But like the other meetings, the discussions 
degenerated into a series of highly technical reports by 
research specialists and personal accounts of the horrors of 
food contamination. No one seemed willing to address the 
problem at its fundamental level. 

In a discussion of mercury poisoning of tuna, for 
example, the representative of the Fisheries Bureau first 
spoke of how truly frightening the problem had become. At 
that time mercury pollution was being discussed every day 
on the radio and in the newspapers, and so everyone 
listened closely to hear what he had to say. 

The speaker said that the amount of mercury in the 
bodies of tuna, even those taken in the Antarctic Ocean and 
near the North Pole, was extremely high. However, when a 
laboratory specimen taken several hundred years ago was 
dissected and analyzed, this fish, contrary to expectation, 
also contained mercury. His tentative conclusion suggested 

that mercury consumption was necessary for the fish to 

The people in the audience looked at each other in 
disbelief. The purpose of the meeting was supposed to have 
been to determine how to deal with the pollution which had 
already contaminated the environment, and to take 
measures to correct it. Instead, here was this representative 
from the Fisheries Bureau saying that mercury is necessary 
for the tuna's survival. This is what I mean when I say that 
people do not grasp the root cause of pollution but only see 
it from a narrow and superficial perspective. 

I stood up and suggested that we take joint action to 
set up, then and there, a concrete plan to deal with 
pollution. Would it not be better to talk straightforwardly 
about discontinuing the use of the chemicals which are 
causing the pollution? Rice, for example can be grown very 
well without chemicals, as can citrus, and it is not difficult 
to grow vegetables that way either. I said that it could be 
done, and that I had been doing it on my farm for years, but 
that as long as the government continued to endorse the use 
of chemicals, no one else would give clean farming a try. 

Members of the Fisheries Bureau were present at the 
meeting, as were people from the Ministry of Agriculture 
and Forestry and the Agricultural Co-op. If they and the 
chairman of the conference, Mr. Ichiraku, had really 
wanted to get things going and had suggested that farmers 
throughout the country should try growing rice without 
chemicals, sweeping changes could have been made. 

There was one great problem, however. If crops were 
to be grown without agricultural chemicals, fertilizer, or 
machinery, the giant chemical companies would become 
unnecessary and the government's Agricultural Co-op 
Agency would collapse. To put the matter right out front, I 
said that the Co-ops and the modern agricultural policy- 
makers depend on large capital investment in fertilizer and 
agricultural machinery for their base of power. To do away 
with machinery and chemicals would bring about a 
complete change in the economic and social structures. 
Therefore, I could see no way that Mr. Ichiraku, the Co-ops 
or the government officials could speak out in favor of 
measures to clean up pollution. 

When I spoke out in this way, the chairman said, "Mr. 
Fukuoka, you are upsetting the conference with your 
remarks," shutting my mouth for me. Well, that's what 

A Modest Solution 
to a Difficult Problem 

So it appears that government agencies have no 
intention of stopping pollution. A second difficulty is that 
all aspects of the problem of food pollution must be 
brought together and solved at the same time. A problem 
cannot be solved by people who are concerned with only 
one or another of its parts. 

To the extent that the consciousness of everyone is not 
fundamentally transformed, pollution will not cease. 

For example, the farmer thinks that the Inland Sea* is 
of no concern to him. He thinks that it is the officials of the 
Fisheries Bureau whose business it is to look after fish, and 
that it is the job of the Environmental Council to take care 
of ocean pollution. In this way of thinking lies the problem. 

The most commonly used chemical fertilizers, 
ammonium sulfate, urea, super phosphate and the like, are 
used in large amounts, only fractions of which are absorbed 
by the plants in the field. The rest leaches into streams and 
rivers, eventually flowing into the Inland Sea. These 
nitrogen compounds become food for algae and plankton 
which multiply in great numbers, causing the red tide to 
appear. Of course, industrial discharge of mercury and 
other contaminating wastes also contribute to the pollution, 
but for the most part water pollution in Japan comes from 
agricultural chemicals. 

So it is the farmer who must shoulder major 
responsibility for the red tide. The farmer who applies 
polluting chemicals to his field, the corporations who 
manufacture these chemicals, the village officials who 
believe in the convenience of chemicals and offer technical 
guidance accordingly — if each of these people does not 
ponder the problem deeply there will be no solving the 
question of water pollution. 

As it is now, only those who are most directly affected 
become active in trying to cope with pollution problems, as 
in the case of the local fishermen's struggle against the big 
oil companies after the oil spill near Mizushima. Or else 
some professor proposes to cope with the problem by 
opening a channel through the belly of Shikoku Island to 
let the relatively clean water of the Pacific Ocean flow into 

*The small sea between the islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. 

the Inland Sea. This sort of thing is researched and 
attempted time after time, but a true solution can never 
come about in this way. 

The fact of the matter is that whatever we do, the 
situation gets worse. The more elaborate the 
countermeasures, the more complicated the problems 

Suppose a pipe were laid across Shikoku and water 
were pumped up from the Pacific and poured into the 
Inland Sea. Let us say that this may possibly clean up the 
Inland Sea. But where is the electric power going to come 
from to run the factory which will manufacture the steel 
pipe, and how about the power required to pump the water 
up? A nuclear power plant would become necessary. To 
construct such a system, concrete and all the various 
materials must be assembled, and a uranium processing 
center built as well. When solutions develop in this way, 
they only sow the seeds for second- and third-generation 
pollution problems which will be more difficult than the 
previous ones, and more widespread. 

It is like the case of the greedy farmer who opens the 
irrigation inlet too wide and lets the water come rushing 
into his rice paddy. A crack develops and the ridge 
crumbles away. At this point reinforcement work becomes 
necessary. The walls are strengthened and the irrigation 
channel enlarged. The increased volume of water only 
increases the potential danger, and the next time the ridge 
weakens, even greater effort will be required for 

When a decision is made to cope with the symptoms 
of a problem, it is generally assumed that the corrective 
measures will solve the problem itself. They seldom do. 
Engineers cannot seem to get this through their heads. 
These countermeasures are all based on too narrow a 
definition of what is wrong. Human measures and 
countermeasures proceed from limited scientific truth and 
judgment. A true solution can never come about in this 

My modest solutions, such as spreading straw and 
growing clover, create no pollution. They are effective 
because they eliminate the source of the problem. Until the 
modern faith in big technological solutions can be 
overturned, pollution will only get worse. 

*By "limited scientific truth and judgment," Mr. Fukuoka is referring to 
the world as perceived and constructed by the human intellect. He 
considers this perception to be limited to a framework defined by its 
own assumptions. 

The Fruit of Hard Times 

Consumers generally assume that they have nothing to 
do with causing agricultural pollution. Many of them ask 
for food that has not been chemically treated. But 
chemically treated food is marketed mainly in response to 
the preferences of the consumer. The consumer demands 
large, shiny, unblemished produce of regular shape. To 
satisfy these desires, agricultural chemicals which were not 
used five or six years ago have come rapidly into use. 

How did we get into such a predicament? People say 
they do not care if cucumbers are straight or crooked, and 
that fruit does not necessarily have to be beautiful on the 
outside. But take a look inside the wholesale markets in 
Tokyo sometime if you want to see how the price responds 
to consumer preferences. When the fruit looks just a little 
better, you get a premium of five or ten cents a pound. 
When the fruit is classed "Small," "Medium" or "Large," 
the price per pound may double or triple with each increase 
in size. 

The consumer's willingness to pay high prices for 
food produced out of season has also contributed to the 
increased use of artificial growing methods and chemicals. 
Last year, Unshu mandarin oranges grown in hothouses for 
summer shipment * fetched prices ten to twenty times 
higher than seasonal mandarins. Instead of the usual price 
of 10 to 15 cents per pound, outrageous prices of $.80, 
$1.00, even $1.75 to the pound were paid. And so, if you 
invest several thousand dollars to install the equipment, buy 
the necessary fuel, and work the extra hours, you can 
realize a profit. 

Farming out of season is becoming more and more 
popular all the time. To have mandarin oranges just one 
month earlier, the people in the city seem happy enough to 
pay for the farmer's extra investment in labor and 
equipment. But if you ask how important it is for human 
beings to have this fruit a month earlier, the truth is that it 
is not important at all, and money is not the only price paid 
for such indulgence. 

Furthermore, a coloring agent, not used a few years 
ago, is now being used. With this chemical, the fruit 
becomes fully colored one week earlier. Depending on 
whether the fruit is sold a week before or after the 10th of 
October, the price either doubles or falls by half, so the 

* This fruit ripens naturally late in the fall. 

farmer applies color-accelerating chemicals, and after the 
harvest places the fruit in a ripening room for gas 

But when the fruit is shipped out early, it is not sweet 
enough, and so artificial sweeteners are used. It is generally 
thought that chemical sweeteners have been prohibited, but 
the artificial sweetener sprayed on citrus trees has not been 
specifically outlawed. The question is whether or not it 
falls into the category of "agricultural chemicals." In any 
case, almost everybody is using it. 

The fruit is then taken to the co-op fruit-sorting 
center. In order to separate the fruit into large and small 
sizes, each one is sent rolling several hundred yards down a 
long conveyor. Bruising is common. The larger the sorting 
center, the longer the fruit is bounced and tumbled about. 
After a water washing the mandarin oranges are sprayed 
with preservatives and a coloring agent is brushed on. 
Finally, as a finishing touch, a paraffin wax solution is 
applied and the fruit is polished to a glossy shine. 
Nowadays fruit is really "run through the mill." 

So from the time just before the fruit has been 
harvested to the time it is shipped out and put on the 
display counter, five or six chemicals are used. This is not 
to mention the chemical fertilizers and sprays that were 
used while the crops were growing in the orchard. And this 
is all because the consumer wants to buy fruit just a little 
more attractive. This little edge of preference has put the 
farmer in a real predicament. 

These measures are not taken because the farmer likes 
to work this way, or because the officials of the Ministry of 
Agriculture enjoy putting the farmer through all this extra 
labor, but until the general sense of values changes, the 
situation will not improve. 

When I was with the Yokohama Customs Office forty 
years ago, Sunkist lemons and oranges were being handled 
in this way. I was strongly opposed to introducing this 
system to Japan, but my words could not prevent the 
current system from being adopted. 

If one farm household or co-op takes up a new 
process such as the waxing of mandarin oranges, because 
of the extra care and attention the profit is higher. The other 
agricultural co-ops take notice and soon they, too, adopt the 
new process. Fruit which is not wax-treated no longer 
brings so high a price. In two or three years waxing is taken 
up all over the country. The competition then brings the 
prices down, and all that is left to the farmer is the burden 
of hard work and the added costs of supplies and 
equipment. Now he must apply the wax. 

Of course the consumer suffers as a result. Food that 
is not fresh can be sold because it looks fresh. Speaking 

biologically, fruit in a slightly shriveled state is holding its 
respiration and energy consumption down to the lowest 
possible level. It is like a person in meditation: his 
metabolism, respiration, and calorie consumption reach an 
extremely low level. Even if he fasts, the energy within the 
body will be conserved. In the same way, when mandarin 
oranges grow wrinkled, when fruit shrivels, when 
vegetables wilt, they are in the state that will preserve their 
food value for the longest possible time. 

It is a mistake to try to maintain the mere appearance 
of freshness, as when shopkeepers sprinkle water on their 
vegetables over and over again. Although the vegetables 
are kept looking fresh, their flavor and nutritional value 
soon deteriorate. 

At any rate, all the agricultural cooperatives and 
collective sorting centers have been integrated and 
expanded to carry out such unnecessary activities. This is 
called "modernization." The produce is packed and loaded 
onto the great delivery system and shipped off to the 

To say it in a word, until there is a reversal of the 
sense of values which cares more for size and appearance 
than for quality, there will be no solving the problem of 
food pollution. 

The Marketing of Natural Food 

For the past several years I have sent 88 to 110 
bushels (5,000-6,500 pounds) of rice to natural food stores 
in various parts of the country. I have also shipped 400 
thirty-five -pound cartons of mandarin oranges in ten-ton 
trucks to the co-op living association in Tokyo's Suginami 
district. The chairman of the co-op wanted to sell 
unpolluted produce, and this formed the basis of our 

The first year was quite successful but there were also 
some complaints. The size of the fruit was too varied, the 
exterior was a bit dirty, the skin was sometimes shriveled 
and so on. I had shipped the fruit in plain unmarked 
cartons, and there were some people who suspected, 
without reason, that the fruit was just an assortment of 
"seconds." I now pack the fruit in cartons lettered "natural 

Since natural food can be produced with the least 
expense and effort, I reason that it should be sold at the 
cheapest price. Last year, in the Tokyo area, my fruit was 
the lowest priced of all. According to many shopkeepers 
the flavor was the most delicious. It would be best, of 
course, if the fruit could be sold locally, eliminating the 
time and expense involved in shipping, but even so, the 
price was right, the fruit was free of chemicals and it tasted 
good. This year I have been asked to ship two or three 
times as much as before. 

At this point the question arises as to how far the 
direct sale of natural food can spread. I have one hope in 
this regard. Lately chemical fruit growers have been driven 
into an extremely tight economic pinch, and this makes the 
production of natural food more attractive to them. No 
matter how hard the average farmer works applying 
chemicals, coloring, waxing, and so on, he can only sell his 
fruit for a price that will barely cover expenses. This year, 
even a farm with exceptionally fine fruit can only expect to 
realize a profit of less than five cents per pound; The 
farmer producing slightly lower quality fruit will end up 
with nothing at all. 

Since prices have slumped in the past few years, the 
agricultural co-ops and sorting centers have become very 
strict, selecting fruit of only the very highest quality. 
Inferior fruit cannot be sold to the sorting centers. After 
putting in a full day's work in the orchard harvesting the 
mandarin oranges, loading them into boxes, and carrying 

them to the sorting shed, the farmer must work until eleven 
or twelve o'clock at night, picking over his fruit, one by 
one, keeping only those of perfect size and shape.* 

The "good ones" sometimes average only 25% to 50% 
of the total crop, and even some of these are rejected by the 
co-op. If the profit remaining is a mere two or three cents 
per pound, it is considered pretty good. The poor citrus 
farmer is working hard these days and still barely breaking 

Growing fruit without applying chemicals, using 
fertilizer, or cultivating the soil involves less expense, and 
the farmer's net profit is therefore higher. The fruit I ship 
out is practically unsorted; I just pack the fruit into a box, 
send them off to the market, and get to bed early. 

The other farmers in my neighborhood realize that 
they are working very hard only to end up with nothing in 
their pockets. The feeling is growing that there is nothing 
strange about growing natural food products, and the 
producers are ready for a change to farming without 
chemicals. But until natural food can be distributed locally, 
the average farmer will worry about not having a market in 
which to sell his produce. 

As for the consumer, the common belief has been that 
natural food should be expensive. If it is not expensive, 
people suspect that it is not natural food. One retailer 
remarked to me that no one would buy natural produce 
unless it is priced high. 

I still feel that natural food should be sold more 
cheaply than any other. Several years ago I was asked to 
send the honey gathered in the citrus orchard and the eggs 
laid by the hens on the mountain to a natural food store in 
Tokyo. When I found out that the merchant was selling 
them at extravagant prices, I was furious. I knew that a 
merchant who would take advantage of his customers in 
that way would also mix my rice with other rice to increase 
the weight, and that it, too, would reach the consumer at an 
unfair price. I immediately stopped all shipments to that 

If a high price is charged for natural food, it means 
that the merchant is taking excessive profits. Furthermore, 
if natural foods are expensive, they become luxury foods 
and only rich people are able to afford them. 

If natural food is to become widely popular, it must be 
available locally at a reasonable price. If the consumer will 
only adjust to the idea that low prices do not mean that the 
food is not natural, then everyone will begin thinking in the 
right direction. 

*The rejected fruit is sold for about half price to a private company to 
be squeezed for juice. 

Commercial Agriculture Will Fail 

When the concept of commercial agriculture first 
appeared, I opposed it. Commercial agriculture in Japan is 
not profitable for the farmer. Among merchants the rule is 
that if an article which originally costs a certain amount is 
further processed, an extra cost is added when the article is 
sold. But in Japanese agriculture it is not so 
straightforward. Fertilizer, feed, equipment, and chemicals 
are purchased at prices fixed abroad, and there is no telling 
what the actual cost per pound will be when these imported 
products are used. It is completely up to the merchants. 
And with selling prices also fixed, the farmer's income is at 
the mercy of forces beyond his control. 

In general, commercial agriculture is an unstable 
proposition. The farmer would do much better by growing 
the food he needs without thinking about making money. If 
you plant one grain of rice, it becomes more than one 
thousand grains. One row of turnips makes enough pickles 
for the entire winter. If you follow this line of thought, you 
will have enough to eat, more than enough, without 
struggling. But if you decide to try to make money instead, 
you get on board the profit wagon, and it runs away with 

I have been thinking lately about white leghorns. 
Because the improved variety of white leghorn lays over 
200 days a year, raising them for profit is considered good 
business. When raised commercially these chickens are 
cooped up in long rows of small cages not unlike cells in a 
penitentiary, and through their entire lives their feet are 
never allowed to touch the ground. Disease is common and 
the birds are pumped full of antibiotics and fed a formula 
diet of vitamins and hormones. 

It is said that the local chickens that have been kept 
since ancient times, the brown and black shamo and chabo, 
have only half the egg-laying capacity. As a result these 
birds have all but disappeared in Japan. I let two hens and 
one rooster loose to run wild on the mountainside and after 
one year there were twenty-four. When it seemed that few 
eggs were being laid, the local birds were busy raising 

In the first year, the leghorn has a greater egg-laying 
efficiency than the local chickens, but after one year the 
white leghorn is exhausted and cast aside, whereas the 
shamo we started with has become ten healthy birds 
running about beneath the orchard trees. Furthermore, the 
white leghorns lay well because they are raised on 

artificially enriched feed which is imported from foreign 
countries and must be bought from the merchants. The 
local birds scratch around and feed freely on seeds and 
insects in the area and lay delicious, natural eggs. 

Setting out for a day's work. 

If you think commercial vegetables are nature's own, 
you are in for a big surprise. These vegetables are a watery 
chemical concoction of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash, 
with a little help from the seed. And that is just how they 
taste. And commercial chicken eggs (you can call them 
eggs if you like) are nothing more than a mixture of 
synthetic feed, chemicals, and hormones. This is not a 
product of nature but a man made synthetic in the shape of 
an egg. The farmer who produces vegetables and eggs of 
this kind, I call a manufacturer. 

Now if it is manufacturing you are talking about, you 
will have to do some fancy figuring if you want to make a 
profit. Since the commercial farmer is not making any 
money, he is like a merchant who cannot handle the 
abacus. That sort of fellow is regarded as a fool by other 
people and his profits are soaked up by politicians and 

In olden times there were warriors, farmers, 
craftsmen, and merchants. Agriculture was said to be closer 
to the source of things than trade or manufacturing, and the 
farmer was said to be "the cupbearer of the gods." He was 
always able to get by somehow or other and have enough to 

But now there is all this commotion about making 
money. Ultra-fashionable produce such as grapes, 
tomatoes, and melons are being grown. Flowers and fruit 
are being produced out-of-season in hothouses. Fish 
breeding has been introduced and cattle are raised because 
profits are high. 

This pattern shows clearly what happens when 
farming climbs aboard the economic roller coaster. 

Fluctuations in prices are violent. There are profits, but 
there are losses as well. 

Failure is inevitable. Japanese agriculture has lost 
sight of its direction and has become unstable. It has 
strayed away from the basic principles of agriculture and 
has become a business. 

Research for Whose Benefit? 

When I first began direct-seeding rice and winter 
grain, I was planning to harvest with a hand sickle and so I 
thought it would be more convenient to set the seeds out in 
regular rows. After many attempts, dabbling about as an 
amateur, I produced a handmade seeding tool. Thinking 
that this tool might be of practical use to other farmers, I 
brought it to the man at the testing center. He told me that 
since we were in an age of large-sized machinery he could 
not be bothered with my "contraption." 

Next I went to a manufacturer of agricultural 
equipment. I was told here that such a simple machine, no 
matter how much you tried to make of it, could not be sold 
for more than $3.50 apiece. "If we made a gadget like that, 
the farmers might start thinking they didn't need the tractors 
we sell for thousands of dollars." He said that nowadays the 
idea is to invent rice planting machines quickly, sell them 
head over heels for as long as possible, then introduce 
something newer. Instead of small tractors, they wanted to 
change over to larger-sized models, and my device was, to 
them, a step backward. To meet the demands of the times, 
resources are poured into furthering useless research, and to 
this day my patent remains on the shelf. 

It is the same with fertilizer and chemicals. Instead of 
developing fertilizer with the farmer in mind, the emphasis 
is on developing something new, anything at all, in order to 
make money. After the technicians leave their jobs at the 
testing centers, they move right over to work for the large 
chemical companies. 

Recently I was talking with Mr. Asada, a technical 
official in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and he 
told me an interesting story. The vegetables grown in 
hothouses are extremely unsavory. Hearing that the 
eggplants shipped out in winter have no vitamins and the 
cucumbers no flavor, he researched the matter and found 
the reason: certain of the sun's rays could not penetrate the 
vinyl and glass enclosures in which the vegetables were 
being grown. His investigation moved over to the lighting 
system inside the hothouses. 

The fundamental question here is whether or not it is 
necessary for human beings to eat eggplants and cucumbers 
during the winter. But, this point aside, the only reason they 
are grown during the winter is that they can be sold then at 
a good price. Somebody develops a means to grow them, 
and after some time passes, it is found that these vegetables 
have no nutritional value. Next, the technician thinks that if 

the nutrients are being lost, a way must be found to prevent 
that loss. Because the trouble is thought to be with the 
lighting system, he begins to research light rays. He thinks 
everything will be all right if he can produce a hothouse 
eggplant with vitamins in it. I was told that there are some 
technicians who devote their entire lives to this kind of 

Naturally, since such great efforts and resources have 
gone into producing this eggplant, and the vegetable is said 
to be high in nutritional value, it is tagged at an even higher 
price and sells well. "If it is profitable, and if you can sell 
it, there can't be anything wrong with it." 

No matter how hard people try, they cannot improve 
upon naturally grown fruits and vegetables. Produce grown 
in an unnatural way satisfies people's fleeting desires but 
weakens the human body and alters the body chemistry so 
that it is dependent upon such foods. When this happens, 
vitamin supplements and medicines become necessary. 
This situation only creates hardships for the farmer and 
suffering for the consumer. 

What is Human Food? 

The other day someone from NHK television came by 
and asked me to say something about the flavor of natural 
food. We talked, and then I asked him to compare the eggs 
laid by the hens in the coop down below with those of the 
chickens running free up in the orchard. He found that the 
yolks of the eggs laid by the chickens cooped up on the 
typical chicken ranch were soft and watery and their color 
was pale yellow. He observed that the yolks of the eggs 
laid by the chickens living wild on the mountain were firm 
and resilient and bright orange in color. When the old man 
who runs the sushi restaurant in town tasted one of these 
natural eggs, he said that this was a "real egg," just like in 
the old days, and rejoiced as if it were some precious 

Again, up in the tangerine orchard, there are many 
different vegetables growing among the weeds and clover. 
Turnips, burdock, cucumbers and squash, peanuts, carrots, 
edible chrysanthemums, potatoes, onions, leaf mustard, 
cabbage, several varieties of beans, and many other herbs 
and vegetables are all growing together. The conversation 
turned to whether or not these vegetables, which had been 
grown in a semi-wild manner, had a better flavor than those 
grown in the home garden or with the aid of chemical 
fertilizer in the fields. When we compared them, the taste 
was completely different, and we determined that the 
"wild" vegetables possessed a richer flavor. 

I told the reporter that when vegetables are grown in a 
prepared field using chemical fertilizer, nitrogen, 
phosphorus and potash are supplied. But when vegetables 
are grown with natural ground cover in soil naturally rich 
in organic matter, they get a more balanced diet of 
nutrients. A great variety of weeds and grasses means that a 
variety of essential nutrients and micronutrients are 
available to the vegetables. Plants which grow in such 
balanced soil have a more subtle flavor. 

Edible herbs and wild vegetables, plants growing on 
the mountain and in the meadow, are very high in 
nutritional value and are also useful as medicine. Food and 
medicine are not two different things: they are the front and 
back of one body. Chemically grown vegetables may be 
eaten for food, but they cannot be used as medicine. 

When you gather and eat the seven herbs of spring,* 
your spirit becomes gentle. And when you eat bracken 
shoots, osmund and shepherd's purse, you become calm. To 
calm restless, impatient feelings, shepherd's purse is the 
best of all. They say that if children eat shepherd's purse, 
willow buds or insects living in trees, this will cure violent 
crying tantrums, and in the old days children were often 
made to eat them. Daikon (Japanese radish) has for its 
ancestor the plant called nazuna (shepherd's purse), and this 
word nazuna is related to the word nagomu, which means 
to be softened. Daikon is the "herb that softens one's 

Among wild foods insects are often overlooked. 
During the war, when I worked at the research center, I was 
assigned to determine what insects in Southeast Asia could 
be eaten. When I investigated this matter, I was amazed to 
discover that almost any insect is edible. 

In a patch of mustard and wild turnips. 

For example, no one would think that lice or fleas 
could be of any use at all, but lice, ground up and eaten 
with winter grain, are a remedy for epilepsy, and fleas are a 
medicine for frostbite. All insect larvae are quite edible, but 
they must be alive. Poring over the old texts, I found stories 
having to do with "delicacies" prepared from maggots from 

* Watercress, shepherd's purse, wild turnip, cottonweed, chickweed, 
wild radish, and bee nettle. Illustrated on pg. 121. 

the outhouse, and the flavor of the familiar silkworm was 
said to be exquisite beyond compare. Even moths, if you 
shake the powder off their wings first, are very tasty. 

So, whether from the standpoint of flavor or from the 
standpoint of health, many things which people consider 
repulsive are actually quite tasty and also good for the 
human body. 

Vegetables that are biologically closest to their wild 
ancestors are the best in flavor and the highest in food 
value. For example, in the lily family (which includes nira, 
garlic, Chinese leek, green onion, pearl onion, and bulb 
onion) the nira and Chinese leek are highest in nutrition, 
good as herbal medicine, and also useful as a tonic for 
general well-being. To most people, however, the more 
domestic varieties, such as green onion and bulb onion, are 
regarded as the best tasting. For some reason, modern 
people like the flavor of vegetables that have departed from 
their wild state. 

A similar taste preference applies to animal foods. 
Wild birds when eaten, are much better for the body than 
domestic fowl such as chickens and ducks, and yet these 
birds, raised in an environment far removed from their 
natural homes, are regarded as good tasting and sold at high 
prices. Goat's milk has a higher food value than cow's milk, 
but it is the cow's milk which is in greater demand. 

Foods that have departed far from their wild state and 
those raised chemically or in a completely contrived 
environment unbalance the body chemistry. The more out 
of balance one's body becomes, the more one comes to 
desire unnatural foods. This situation is dangerous to 

To say that what one eats is merely a matter of 
preference is deceiving, because an unnatural or exotic diet 
creates a hardship for the farmer and the fisherman as well. 
It seems to me that the greater one's desires, the more one 
has to work to satisfy them. Some fish, such as the popular 
tuna and yellowtail must be caught in distant waters, but 
sardine, sea bream, flounder, and other small fish can be 
caught in great abundance in the Inland Sea. Speaking 
nutritionally, creatures which live in freshwater rivers and 
streams, such as carp, pond snails, stream crayfish, marsh 
crabs and so on, are better for the body than those from salt 
water. Next come shallow-water ocean fish, and finally fish 
from deep salt water and from distant seas. The foods that 
are nearby are best for human beings, and things that he has 
to struggle to obtain turn out to be the least beneficial of all. 

That is to say that if one accepts what is near at hand, 
all goes well. If the farmers who live in this village eat only 
the foods that can be grown or gathered here, there will be 
no mistake. In the end, like the group of young people 

living in the huts up in the orchard, one will find it simplest 
to eat brown rice and unpolished barley, millet, and 
buckwheat, together with the seasonal plants and semi-wild 
vegetables. One ends up with the best food; it has flavor, 
and is good for the body. 

If 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) of rice and 22 bushels of 
winter grain are harvested from a quarter acre field such as 
one of these, then the field will support five to ten people 
each investing an average of less than one hour of labor per 
day. But if the field were turned over to pasturage, or if the 
grain were fed to cattle, only one person could be supported 
per quarter acre. Meat becomes a luxury food when its 
production requires land which could provide food directly 
for human consumption.* This has been shown clearly and 
definitely. Each person should ponder seriously how much 
hardship he is causing by indulging in food so expensively 

Meat and other imported foods are luxuries because 
they require more energy and resources than the traditional 
vegetables and grains produced locally. It follows that 
people who limit themselves to a simple local diet need do 
less work and use less land than those with an appetite for 

If people continue to eat meat and imported food, 
within ten years it is certain that Japan will fall into a food 
crisis. Within thirty years, there will be overwhelming 
shortages. The absurd idea has swept in from somewhere 
that a change from rice-eating to bread-eating indicates an 
improvement in the everyday life of the Japanese people. 
Actually this is not so. Brown rice and vegetables may 
seem to be coarse fare, but this is the very finest diet 
nutritionally, and enables human beings to live simply and 

If we do have a food crisis it will not be caused by the 
insufficiency of nature's productive power, but by the 
extravagance of human desire. 

*Although most meat in North America is produced by feeding field 
crops such as wheat, barley, corn, and soybeans to animals, there are 
also large areas of land best used when rotated regularly into pasture or 
hay fields. In Japan, almost no such land exists. Almost all meat must 
be imported. 

A Merciful Death for Barley 

Forty years ago, as a result of increasing political 
hostility between the United States and Japan, importing 
wheat from America became impossible. There was a 
general movement throughout the country to grow wheat 
domestically. The American wheat varieties being used 
require a long growing season and the grain finally matured 
in the middle of Japan's rainy season. Even after the farmer 
had taken such great pains to grow the crop, it would often 
rot during the harvest. These varieties proved to be very 
unreliable and highly susceptible to disease, so the farmers 
did not want to grow wheat. When ground and toasted in 
the traditional way, the taste was so terrible that you almost 
choked and had to spit it out. 

The traditional varieties of Japanese rye and barley 
can be harvested in May, before the rainy season, so they 
are comparatively safe crops. Farmers had wheat 
cultivation forced upon them nonetheless. Everyone 
laughed and said there was nothing worse than growing 
wheat, but they patiently went along with the government 

After the war, American wheat was again imported in 
large quantities, causing the price of wheat grown in Japan 
to fall. This added to the many other good reasons to 
discontinue wheat growing. "Give up wheat, give up 
wheat!" was the slogan propagated nationwide by the 
government's agricultural leaders, and the farmers gladly 
gave it up. At the same time, because of the low price of 
imported wheat, the government encouraged the farmers to 
stop growing the traditional winter crops of rye and barley. 
This policy was carried out and the fields of Japan were left 
to lie fallow through the winter. 

About ten years ago I was chosen to represent Ehime 
Prefecture in NHK television's "Outstanding Farmer of the 
Year" competition. At that time I was asked by a member of 
the screening committee, "Mr. Fukuoka, why don't you give 
up growing rye and barley?" I answered, "Rye and barley are 
easy crops to raise, and by growing them in succession with 
rice we can produce the greatest number of calories from 
Japan's fields. That's why I don't give them up." 

It was made clear that no one who stubbornly goes 
against the will of the Ministry of Agriculture could be 
named Outstanding Farmer and I then said, "If that's what 
keeps someone from getting the Outstanding Farmer Award, 
then I'm better off without it." One of the members of the 
screening panel later said to me, "If I were to leave the 

university and take up farming myself, I would probably 
farm as you do, and grow rice in summer, and barley and rye 
over the winter every year as before the war." 

Shortly after this episode, I appeared on an NHK 
television program in a panel discussion with various 
university professors, and at that time I was again asked, 
"Why don't you give up growing rye and barley?" I stated 
once again, very clearly, that I wasn't about to give them up 
for any one of a dozen good reasons. About that time the 
slogan for giving up winter grain cultivation called for "A 
merciful death." That is, the practice of growing winter 
grain and rice in succession should pass away quietly. But 
"merciful death" is too gentle a term; the Ministry of 
Agriculture really wanted it to die in the ditch. When it 
became clear to me that the main purpose of the program 
was to promote a rapid end to growing winter grain, 
leaving it "dead by the side of the road" so to speak, I 
exploded in indignation. 

Forty years ago the call was to grow wheat, to grow 
foreign grain, to grow a useless and impossible crop. Then 
it was said that the Japanese varieties of rye and barley did 
not have as high a food value as American grain and the 
farmers regretfully gave up growing these traditional 
grains. As the standard of living rose by leaps and bounds, 
the word went out to eat meat, eat eggs, drink milk, and 
change from eating rice to eating bread. Corn, soybeans, 
and wheat were imported in ever-increasing quantities. 
American wheat was cheap, so the growing of native rye and 
barley was abandoned. Japanese agriculture adopted measures 
which forced farmers to take part-time jobs in town so they 
could buy the crops they had been told not to grow. 

And now, new concern has arisen over the shortage of 
food resources. Self-sufficiency in rye and barley 
production is again being advocated. They are saying there 

will even be subsidies. But it is not enough to grow 
traditional winter grains for a couple of years and then to 
abandon them again. A sound agricultural policy must be 
established. Because the Ministry of Agriculture has no 
clear idea of what should be grown in the first place, and 
because it does not understand the connection between 
what is grown in the fields and the people's diet, a 
consistent agricultural policy remains an impossibility. 

If the Ministry's staff were to go to the mountains and 
meadows, gather the seven herbs of spring, and the seven 
herbs of autumn,* and taste them, they would learn what 
the source of human nourishment is. If they would 
investigate further they would see that you can live quite 
well on traditional domestic crops such as rice, barley, rye, 
buckwheat, and vegetables, and they could decide simply 
that this is all Japanese agriculture needs to grow. If that is 
all the farmers have to grow, farming becomes very easy. 

Until now the line of thought among modern 
economists has been that small scale, self-sufficient 
farming is wrong — that this is a primitive kind of 
agriculture — one that should be eliminated as quickly as 
possible. It is being said that the area of each field must be 
expanded to handle the changeover to large-scale, 
American-style agriculture. This way of thinking does not 
apply only to agriculture — developments in all areas are 
moving in this direction. 

The goal is to have only a few people in farming. The 
agricultural authorities say that fewer people, using large, 
modern machinery can get greater yields from the same 
acreage. This is considered agricultural progress. After the 
War, between 70% and 80% of the people in Japan were 
farmers. This quickly changed to 50%, then 30%, 20%, and 
now the figure stands at around 14%. It is the intention of 
the Ministry of Agriculture to achieve the same level as in 
Europe and America, keeping less than 10% of the people 
as farmers and discouraging the rest. 

In my opinion, if 100% of the people were farming it 
would be ideal. There is just a quarter-acre of arable land 
for each person in Japan. If each single person were given 
one quarter-acre, that is 1 % acres to a family of five, that 
would be more than enough land to support the family for 
the whole year. If natural farming were practiced, a farmer 
would also have plenty of time for leisure and social 
activities within the village community. I think this is the 
most direct path toward making this country a happy, 
pleasant land. 

* Chinese bell flower, arrowroot (kudzu), thoroughwort (a boneset), 
valerianacea, bush clover, wild fringed pink, and Japanese pampas 

Simply Serve Nature and All Is Well 

Extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause 
which has led the world into its present predicament. 

Fast rather than slow, more rather than less — this 
flashy "development" is linked directly to society's 
impending collapse. It has only served to separate man 
from nature. Humanity must stop indulging the desire for 
material possessions and personal gain and move instead 
toward spiritual awareness. 

Agriculture must change from large mechanical 
operations to small farms attached only to life itself. 
Material life and diet should be given a simple place. If this 
is done, work becomes pleasant, and spiritual breathing 
space becomes plentiful. 

The more the farmer increases the scale of his 
operation, the more his body and spirit are dissipated and 
the further he falls away from a spiritually satisfying life. A 
life of small-scale farming may appear to be primitive, but 
in living such a life, it becomes possible to contemplate the 
Great Way* I believe that if one fathoms deeply one's own 
neighborhood and the everyday world in which he lives, 
the greatest of worlds will be revealed. 

At the end of the year the one-acre farmer of long ago 
spent January, February, and March hunting rabbits in the 
hills. Though he was called a poor peasant, he still had this 
kind of freedom. The New Year's holiday lasted about three 
months. Gradually this vacation came to be shortened to 
two months, one month, and now New Year's has come to 
be a three-day holiday. 

The dwindling of the New Year's holiday indicates 
how busy the farmer has become and how he has lost his 
easy-going physical and spiritual well-being. There is no 
time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or 
compose a song. 

The other day I was surprised to notice, while I was 
cleaning the little village shrine, that there were some 
plaques hanging on the wall. Brushing off the dust and 
looking at the dim and faded letters, I could make out 
dozens of haiku poems. Even in a little village such as this, 
twenty or thirty people had composed haiku and presented 
them as offerings. That is how much open space people had 

*The path of spiritual awareness which involves attentive-ness to and 
care for the ordinary activities of daily life. 

in their lives in the old days. Some of the verses must have 
been several centuries old. Since it was that long ago they 
were probably poor farmers, but they still had leisure to 
write haiku. 

Now there is no one in this village with enough time 
to write poetry. During the cold winter months, only a few 
villagers can find the time to sneak out for a day or two to 
go after rabbits. For leisure, now, the television is the 
center of attention, and there is no time at all for the simple 
pastimes which brought richness to the farmer's daily life. 
This is what I mean when I say that agriculture has become 
poor and weak spiritually; it is concerning itself only with 
material development. 

Lao Tzu, the Taoist sage, says that a whole and decent 
life can be lived in a small village. Bodhidharma, the 
founder of Zen, spent nine years living in a cave without 
bustling about. To be worried about making money, 
expanding, developing, growing cash crops and shipping 
them out is not the way of the farmer. To be here, caring 
for a small field, in full possession of the freedom and 
plentitude of each day, every day — this must have been the 
original way of agriculture. 

To break experience in half and call one side physical 
and the other spiritual is narrowing and confusing. People 
do not live dependent on food. Ultimately, we cannot know 
what food is. It would be better if people stopped even 
thinking about food. Similarly, it would be well if people 
stopped troubling themselves about discovering the "true 
meaning of life,-" we can never know the answers to great 
spiritual questions, but it's all right not to understand. We 
have been born and are living on the earth to face directly 
the reality of living. 

"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or 
compose a song." 

Living is no more than the result of being born. 
Whatever it is people eat to live, whatever people think 
they must eat to live, is nothing more than something they 
have thought up. The world exists in such a way that if 
people will set aside their human will and be guided instead 
by nature there is no reason to expect to starve. 

Just to live here and now — this is the true basis of 
human life. When, a naive scientific knowledge becomes 
the basis of living, people come to live as if they are 
dependent only on starch, fats, and protein, and plants on 
nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash. 

And the scientists, no matter how much they 
investigate nature, no matter how far they research, they 
only come to realize in the end how perfect and mysterious 
nature really is. To believe that by research and invention 
humanity can create something better than nature is an 
illusion. I think that people are struggling for no other 
reason than to come to know what you might call the vast 
incomprehensibility of nature. 

So for the farmer in his work: serve nature and all is 
well. Farming used to be sacred work. When humanity fell 
away from this ideal, modern commercial agriculture rose. 
When the farmer began to grow crops to make money, he 
forgot the real principles of agriculture. 

Of course the merchant has a role to play in society, 
but glorification of merchant activities tends to draw people 
away from a recognition of the true source of life. Farming, 
as an occupation which is within nature, lies close to this 
source. Many farmers are unaware of nature even while 
living and working in natural surroundings, but it seems to 
me that farming offers many opportunities for greater 

"Whether autumn will bring wind or rain, I cannot 
know, but today I will be working in the fields." Those are 
the words of an old country song. They express the truth of 
farming as a way of life. No matter how the harvest will 
turn out, whether or not there will be enough food to eat, in 
simply sowing seed and caring tenderly for plants under 
nature's guidance there is joy. 

Various Schools of Natural Farming 

I do not particularly like the word "work." Human 
beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think 
this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals 
make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, 
thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger 
the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they 
think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking 
and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I 
think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping 
outside in the morning and evening to see if there is 
something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, 
must be a wonderful life. 

For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be 
possible if one worked to produce directly his daily 
necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people 
generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be 

To move things in this direction is my goal. It is also 
the goal of the seven or eight young people who live 
communally in the huts on the mountain and help out with 
the farming chores. These young people want to become 
farmers, to establish new villages and communities, and to 
give this sort of life a try. They come to my farm to learn 
the practical skills of farming that they will need to carry 
out this plan. 

If you look across the country you might notice that 
quite a few communes have been springing up recently. If 
they are called gatherings of hippies, well, they could be 
viewed that way too, I suppose. But in living and working 
together, finding the way back to nature, they are the model 
of the "new farmer." They understand that to become 
firmly rooted means to live from the yields of their own 
land. A community that cannot manage to produce its own 
food will not last long. 

Many of these young people travel to India, or to 
France's Gandhi Village, spend time on a kibbutz in Israel, 
or visit communes in the mountains and deserts of the 
American West. There are those like the group on 
Suwanose Island in the Tokara Island chain of Southern 
Japan, who try new forms of family living and experience 
the closeness of tribal ways. I think that the movement of 
this handful of people is leading the way to a better time. It 
is among these people that natural farming is now rapidly 
taking hold and gaining momentum. 

In addition, various religious groups have come to 
take up natural farming. In seeking the essential nature of 
man, no matter how you go about it, you must begin with 
the consideration of health. The path which leads to right 
awareness involves living each day straightforwardly and 
growing and eating wholesome, natural food. It follows 
that natural farming has been for many people the best 
place to begin. 

I do not belong to any religious group myself and will 
freely discuss my views with anyone at all. I do not care 
much for making distinctions among Christianity, 
Buddhism, Shinto, and the other religions, but it does 
intrigue me that people of deep religious conviction are 
attracted to my farm. I think this is because natural 
farming, unlike other types of farming, is based on a 
philosophy which penetrates beyond considerations of soil 
analysis, pH, and harvest yields. 

Some time ago, a fellow from the Paris Organic 
Gardening Center climbed up the mountain, and we spent 
the day talking. Hearing about affairs in France, I learned 
that they were planning an organic farming conference on 
an international scale, and as preparation for the meeting, 
this Frenchman was visiting organic and natural farms all 
over the world. I showed him around the orchard and then 
we sat down over a cup of mugwort tea and discussed some 
of my observations over the past thirty-odd years. 

First I said that when you look over the principles of 
the organic farming popular in the West, you will find that 
they hardly differ from those of the traditional Oriental 
agriculture practiced in China, Korea, and Japan for many 
centuries. All Japanese farmers were still using this type of 
farming through the Meiji and Taisho Eras* and right up 
until the end of the Second World War. 

It was a system which emphasized the fundamental 
importance of compost and of recycling human and animal 
waste. The form of management was intensive and 
included such practices as crop rotation, companion 
planting, and the use of green manure. Since space was 
limited, fields were never left untended and the planting 
and harvesting schedules proceeded with precision. All 
organic residue was made into compost and returned to the 
fields. The use of compost was officially encouraged and 
agricultural research was mainly concerned with organic 
matter and composting techniques. 

* 1868-1926. 

So an agriculture joining animals, crops, and human 
beings into one body existed as the mainstream of Japanese 
farming up to modern times. It could be said that organic 
farming as practiced in the West takes as its point of 
departure this traditional agriculture of the Orient. 

I went on to say that among natural farming methods 
two kinds could be distinguished: broad, transcendent 
natural farming, and the narrow natural farming of the 
relative world.* If I were pressed to talk about it in 
Buddhist terms, the two could be called respectively as 
Mahayana and Hinayana natural farming. 

Broad, Mahayana natural farming arises of itself when 
a unity exists between man and nature. It conforms to 
nature as it is, and to the mind as it is. It proceeds from the 
conviction that if the individual temporarily abandons 
human will and so allows himself to be guided by nature, 
nature responds by providing everything. To give a simple 
analogy, in transcendent natural farming the relationship 
between humanity and nature can be compared with a 
husband and wife joined in perfect marriage. The marriage 
is not bestowed, not received; the perfect pair comes into 
existence of itself. 

Narrow natural farming, on the other hand, is 
pursuing the way of nature; it self-consciously attempts, by 
"organic" or other methods, to follow nature. Farming is 
used for achieving a given objective. Although sincerely 
loving nature and earnestly proposing to her, the 
relationship is still tentative. Modern industrial farming 
desires heaven's wisdom, without grasping its meaning, and 
at the same time wants to make use of nature. Restlessly 
searching, it is unable to find anyone to propose to. 

The narrow view of natural farming says that it is 
good for the farmer to apply organic material to the soil and 
good to raise animals, and that this is the best and most 
efficient way to put nature to use. To speak in terms of 
personal practice, this is fine, but with this way alone, the 
spirit of true natural farming cannot be kept alive. This kind 
of narrow natural farming is analogous to the school of 
swordsmanship known as the one-stroke school, which 
seeks victory through the skillful, yet self-conscious 
application of technique. Modern industrial farming 
follows the two-stroke school, which believes that victory 
can be won by delivering the greatest barrage of 

*This is the world as understood by the intellect. 

Pure natural farming, by contrast, is the no-stroke 
school. It goes nowhere and seeks no victory. Putting 
"doing nothing" into practice is the one thing the farmer 
should strive to accomplish. Lao Tzu spoke of non-active 
nature, and I think that if he were a farmer he would 
certainly practice natural farming. I believe that Gandhi's 
way, a methodless method, acting with a non-winning, non- 
opposing state of mind, is akin to natural farming. When it 
is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the 
attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will 
be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing 
of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human 

*In this paragraph Mr. Fukuoka is drawing a distinction between 
techniques undertaken in conscious pursuit of a given objective, and 
those which arise spontaneously as the expression of a person's 
harmony with nature as he goes about his daily business, free from the 
domination of the volitional intellect. 

Confusion about Food 

A young fellow who had stayed three years in one of 
the huts on the mountain said one day, "You know, when 
people say 'natural food' I don't know what they mean any 

When you think about it, everybody is familiar with 
the words "natural food," but it is not clearly understood 
what natural food actually is. There are many who feel that 
eating food which contains no artificial chemicals or 
additives is a natural diet, and there are others who think 
vaguely that a natural diet is eating foods just as they are 
found in nature. 

If you ask whether the use of fire and salt in cooking 
is natural or unnatural, one could answer either way. If the 
diet of the people of primitive times, eating only plants and 
animals living in their wild state, is "natural," then a diet 
which uses salt and fire cannot be called natural. But if it is 
argued that the knowledge acquired in ancient times of 
using fire and salt was humanity's natural destiny, then 
food prepared accordingly is perfectly natural. Is food to 
which human techniques of preparation have been applied 
good, or should wild foods just as they are in nature be 
considered good? Can cultivated crops be said to be 
natural? Where do you draw the line between natural and 

It could be said that the term "natural diet" in Japan 
originated with the teachings of Sagen Ishizuka in the Meiji 
Era. His theory was later refined and elaborated by Mr. 
Sakurazawa* and Mr. Niki. The Path of Nutrition, known 
in the West as Macrobiotics, is based on the theory of non- 
duality and the yin-yang concepts of the I Ching. Since this 
usually means a brown rice diet, "natural diet" is generally 
thought of as eating whole grains and vegetables. Natural 
food, however, cannot be summed up so simply as brown 
rice vegetarianism. 

So what is it? 

* George Osawa. 

The reason for all the confusion is that there are two 
paths of human knowledge — discriminating and non- 
discriminating.** People generally believe that unmistaken 
recognition of the world is possible through discrimination 
alone. Therefore, the word "nature" as it is generally 
spoken, denotes nature as it is perceived by the 
discriminating intellect. 

I deny the empty image of nature as created by the 
human intellect, and clearly distinguish it from nature itself 
as experienced by non-discriminating understanding. If we 
eradicate the false conception of nature, I believe the root 
of the world's disorder will disappear. 

In the West natural science developed from 
discriminating knowledge; in the East the philosophy of 
yin-yang and of the I Ching developed from the same 
source. But scientific truth can never reach absolute truth, 
and philosophies, after all, are nothing more than 
interpretations of the world. Nature as grasped by scientific 
knowledge is a nature which has been destroyed; it is a 
ghost possessing a skeleton, but no soul. Nature as grasped 
by philosophical knowledge is a theory created out of 
human speculation, a ghost with a soul, but no structure. 

There is no way in which non-discriminating 
knowledge can be realized except by direct intuition, but 
people try to fit it into a familiar framework by calling it 
"instinct". It is actually knowledge from an unnamable 
source. Abandon the discriminating mind and transcend the 
world of relativity if you want to know the true appearance 
of nature. From the beginning there is no east or west, no 
four seasons, and no yin or yang. 

**This is a distinction made by many Oriental philosophers. 
Discriminating knowledge is derived from the analytic, willful intellect 
in an attempt to organize experience into a logical framework. Mr. 
Fukuoka believes that in this process, the individual sets himself apart 
from nature. It is the "limited scientific truth and judgment" discussed 
on pg. 84. 

Non-discriminating knowledge arises without conscious effort on the 
part of the individual when experience is accepted as it is, without 
interpretation by the intellect. 

While discriminating knowledge is essential for analyzing practical 
problems in the world, Mr. Fukuoka believes that ultimately it provides 
too narrow a perspective. 

A mid-day meal of soup and rice with pickled vegetables. 

When I had gone this far, the youth asked, "Then you 
not only deny natural science, but also the Oriental 
philosophies based on yin-yang and the I Ching?" 

As temporary expedients or as directional markers 
they could be acknowledged as valuable, I said but they 
should not be considered as the highest achievements. 
Scientific truths and philosophies are concepts of the 
relative world, and there they hold true and their value is 
recognized. For example, for modern people living in the 
relative world, disrupting the order of nature and bringing 
about the collapse of their own body and spirit, the yin- 
yang system can serve as a fitting and effective pointer 
toward the restoration of order. 

Such paths could be said to be useful theories to help 
people achieve a condensed and compact diet until a true 
natural diet is attained. But if you realize that the eventual 
human goal is to transcend the world of relativity, to play 
in a realm of freedom, then plodding along attached to 
theory is unfortunate. When the individual is able to enter a 
world in which the two aspects of yin and yang return to 
their original unity, the mission of these symbols comes to 
an end. 

A youth who had recently arrived spoke up: "Then if 
you become a natural person you can eat anything you 

If you expect a bright world on the other side of the 
tunnel, the darkness of the tunnel lasts all the longer. When 
you no longer want to eat something tasty, you can taste the 
real flavor of whatever you are eating. It is easy to lay out 
the simple foods of a natural diet on the dining table, but 
those who can truly enjoy such a feast are few. 

Nature's Food Mandala 

My thinking on natural food is the same as it is on 
natural farming. Just as natural farming complies with 
nature as it is, that is, nature as apprehended by the non- 
discriminating mind, so natural diet is a way of eating in 
which foods gathered in the wild or crops grown through 
natural farming, and fish caught by natural methods, are 
acquired without intentional action through the non- 
discriminating mind. 

Even though I speak of non-intentional action and 
non-method, wisdom acquired over time in the course of 
daily life is, of course, acknowledged. The use of salt and 
fire in cooking could be criticized as the first step in the 
separation of man from nature, but it is simply natural 
wisdom as apprehended by primitive people, and should be 
sanctioned as wisdom bestowed by heaven. 

Crops which have evolved over thousands and tens of 
thousands of years by dwelling together with human beings 
are not products born entirely from the discriminating 
knowledge of the farmer, and can be thought of as naturally 
occurring foods. But the instantly altered varieties which 
have not evolved under natural circumstances, but rather 
have been developed by an agricultural science which has 
drawn far away from nature, as well as mass-produced fish, 
shellfish, and domestic animals, fall outside that category. 

Farming, fishing, animal raising, the everyday 
realities of food, clothing, shelter, spiritual life — everything 
there is — must form a union with nature. 

I have drawn the following diagrams to help explain 
the natural diet which transcends science and philosophy. 
The first brings together the foods which people can most 
easily obtain, and these are arranged more or less in groups. 
The second shows the foods as they are available during 
the various months of the year. These diagrams compose 
nature's food mandala.* From this mandala it can be seen 
that the sources of food provided on the face of the earth 
are nearly limitless. If people will acquire food through 
"no-mind",** even though they know nothing at all about 
yin and yang, they can attain a perfect natural diet. 

* A circular diagram in eastern art and religion, symbolizing the totality 
and wholeness of its subject. 

** A Buddhist term which describes the state in which there is no 
distinction between the individual and the "external" world. 

The fishermen and farmers in a Japanese village have 
no particular interest in the logic of these diagrams. They 
follow nature's prescription by selecting seasonal foods 
from their immediate area. 

From early spring, when the seven herbs sprout forth 
from the earth, the farmer can taste seven flavors. To go 
along with these are the delicious flavors of pond snails, 
sea clams, and turban shellfish. 

The season of green arrives in March. Horsetail, 
bracken, mugwort, osmund, and other mountain plants, and 
of course the young leaves of the persimmon and peach 
trees and the sprouts of mountain yams can all be eaten. 
Possessing a light, delicate flavor, they make delicious 
tempura and can also be used as seasonings. At the 
seashore, sea vegetables such as kelp, nori, and rockweed 
are delicious and abundant during the spring months. 


When the bamboo sends up its young shoots, grey 
rock cod, sea bream, and striped pig fish are at their most 
delicious. The iris blossom season is celebrated with the 
slender ribbon fish and mackerel sashimi. Green peas, 
snow peas, lima beans, and fava beans are delicious eaten 
right from the pod or boiled with whole grains such as 
brown rice, wheat, or barley. 

Toward the end of the rainy season,* Japanese plums 
are salted away, and strawberries and raspberries can be 
gathered in abundance. At this time it is natural that the 
body begins to desire the crisp flavor of scallions together 
with watery fruits such as loquats, apricots, and peaches. 
The loquat's fruit is not the only part of the plant which can 
be eaten. The seed can be ground into "coffee," and when 
the leaves are brewed to make tea it is among the finest of 
medicines. The mature leaves of peach and persimmon 
trees produce a tonic for longevity. 

Beneath the bright midsummer sun, eating melons and 
licking honey in the shade of a big tree is a favorite 
pastime. The many summer vegetables such as carrot, 
spinach, radish, and cucumber become ripe and ready for 
harvesting. The body also needs vegetable or sesame oil to 
hold off summer sloth. 

If you call it mysterious, then mysterious it is that the 
winter grain harvested in spring goes well with the 
decreased summertime appetite, and so in summer barley 
noodles of various sizes and shapes are prepared often. 
Buckwheat grain is harvested in summer. It is an ancient 
wild plant and a food which goes well with this season. 

Early fall is a happy season, with soybeans and small 
red azuki beans, many fruits, vegetables, and various 
yellow grains all ripening at the same time. 

Millet cakes are enjoyed at the autumn moon viewing 
celebrations. Parboiled soybeans are served along with taro 
potatoes. As autumn deepens, maize, and rice steamed with 
red beans, matsutake mushrooms, or chestnuts are eaten 
and enjoyed often. Most important, the rice which has 
absorbed the sun's rays all summer long ripens in the fall. 
This means that a staple food which can be plentifully 
obtained and is rich in calories is provided for the cold 
winter months. 

At first frost one feels like looking in on the fish- 
broiler's stand. Deep-water blue fish such as yellowtail and 
tuna can be caught during this season. It is interesting that 
the Japanese radish and the leafy vegetables abundant 
during this season go well with these fish. 

The New Year's holiday cooking is prepared largely 
from food which has been pickled and salted away 
especially for the great celebration. Salted salmon, herring 
eggs, red sea bream, lobster, kelp, and black beans have 
been served every year at this feast for many centuries. 

*In most of Japan the rainy season lasts from June to mid-July. 


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Digging the radishes and turnips which have been left 
in the ground, covered with a blanket of soil and snow, is 
an enjoyable experience during the winter season. Grains 
and various beans grown during the year and miso and soy 
sauce are staples always on hand. Along with the cabbages, 
radishes, squash, and sweet potatoes stored in the autumn, a 
variety of foods are available during the months of bitter 
cold. Leeks and wild scallions go well with the delicate 
flavor of oysters and sea cucumbers which can be gathered 

Waiting for spring to arrive, one catches sight of colt's 
foot shoots and the edible leaves of the creeping strawberry 
geranium peeping out of the snow. With the return of 
watercress, shepherd's purse, chickweed, and the other 
wild herbs, a garden of natural spring vegetables can be 
harvested beneath the kitchen window. 

Thus, by following a humble diet, gathering the foods 
of the various seasons from close at hand, and savoring 
their wholesome and nourishing flavor, the local villagers 
accept what nature provides. 

The villagers know the delicious flavor of the food, 
but they cannot taste the mysterious flavor of nature. No, it 
is rather that they taste it, but cannot express it with words. 

A natural diet lies right at one's feet. 

The Culture of Food 

When asked why we eat food, few think further than 
the fact that food is necessary to support the life and growth 
of the human body. Beyond this, however, there is the 
deeper question of the relationship of food to the human 
spirit. For animals it is enough to eat, play, and sleep. For 
humans, too, it would be a great accomplishment if they 
could enjoy nourishing food, a simple daily round, and 
restful sleep. 

Buddha said, "Form is emptiness and emptiness is 
form." Since the "form" of Buddhist terminology indicates 
matter, or things, and emptiness is the mind, he is saying 
that matter and mind are the same. Things have many 
different colors, shapes, and flavors, and people's minds flit 
from side to side, attracted to the various qualities of 
things. But actually, matter and mind are one. 


In the world there are seven basic colors. But if these 
seven colors are combined, they become white. When split 
by a prism the white light becomes seven colors. When 
man views the world with "no-mind" the color in the color 
vanishes. It is no-color. Only when they are viewed by the 
seven-colored mind of discrimination do the seven colors 

Water undergoes countless changes but water is still 
water. In the same way, although the conscious mind 
appears to undergo changes, the original unmoving mind 
does not change. When one becomes infatuated with the 
seven colors, the mind is easily distracted. The colors of 
leaves, branches, and fruit are perceived, while the basis of 
color passes unnoticed. 

This is also true of food. In this world there are many 
natural substances that are suitable for human food. These 
foods are distinguished by the mind and are thought to have 
good and bad qualities. People then consciously select what 
they think they must have. This process of selection 
impedes the recognition of the basis of human nourishment, 
which is what heaven prescribes for the place and season. 

Nature's colors, like hydrangea blossoms, change 
easily. The body of nature is perpetual transformation. For 
the same reason that it is called infinite motion, it may also 
be considered non-moving motion. When reason is applied 
to selecting foods, one's understanding of nature becomes 
fixed and nature's transformations, such as the seasonal 
changes, are ignored. 

The purpose of a natural diet is not to create 
knowledgeable people who can give sound explanations 
and skillfully select among the various foods, but to create 
unknowing people who take food without consciously 
making distinctions. This does not go against the way of 
nature. By realizing "no-mind," without becoming lost in 
the subtleties of form, accepting the color of the colorless 
as color, right diet begins. 


People say, "You don't know what food tastes like 
until you try it." But even when you do try it, the food's 
flavor may vary, depending on time and circumstance and 
the dispositon of the person who is tasting. 

If you ask a scientist what the substance of flavor is, 
he will try to define it by isolating the various components 
and by determining the proportions of sweet, sour, bitter, 
salty, and pungent. But flavor cannot be defined by analysis 
or even by the tip of the tongue. Even though the five 
flavors are perceived by the tongue, the impressions are 
collected and interpreted by the mind. 

A natural person can achieve right diet because his 
instinct is in proper working order. He is satisfied with 
simple food; it is nutritious, tastes good, and is useful daily 
medicine. Food and the human spirit are united. 

Modern people have lost their clear instinct and 
consequently have become unable to gather and enjoy the 
seven herbs of spring. They go out seeking a variety of 
flavors. Their diet becomes disordered, the gap between 
likes and dislikes widens, and their instinct becomes more 
and more bewildered. At this point people begin to apply 
strong seasonings to their food and to use elaborate cooking 
techniques, further deepening the confusion. Food and the 
human spirit have become estranged. 

Most people today have even become separated from 
the flavor of rice. The whole grain is refined and processed, 
leaving only the tasteless starch. Polished rice lacks the 
unique fragrance and flavor of whole rice. Consequently, it 
requires seasonings and must be supplemented with side 
dishes or covered with sauce. People think, mistakenly, that 
it does not matter that the food value of the rice is low, as 
long as vitamin supplements or other foods such as meat or 
fish supply the missing nutrients. 

Flavorful foods are not flavorful in themselves. Food 
is not delicious unless a person thinks it is. Although most 
people think that beef and chicken are delectable, to a 
person who for physical or spiritual reasons has decided 
that he dislikes them, they are repulsive. 

Just playing or doing nothing at all, children are 
happy. A discriminating adult, on the other hand, decides 
what will make him happy, and when these conditions are 
met he feels satisfied. Foods taste good to him not 
necessarily because they have nature's subtle flavors and 
are nourishing to the body, but because his taste has been 
conditioned to the idea that they taste good. 

Wheat noodles are delicious, but a cup of instant 
noodles from a vending machine tastes extremely bad. But, 
by advertising, remove the idea that they taste bad, and to 
many people even these unsavory noodles somehow come 
to taste good. 

There are stories that, deceived by a fox, people have 
eaten horse manure. It is nothing to laugh about. People 
nowadays eat with their minds, not with their bodies. Many 
people do not care if there is monosodium glutamate in 
their food, but they taste only with the tip of the tongue, so 
they are easily fooled. 

At first people ate simply because they were alive and 
because food was tasty. Modern people have come to think 
that if they do not prepare food with elaborate seasonings, 
the meal will be tasteless. If you do not try to make food 
delicious, you will find that nature has made it so. 

The first consideration should be to live in such a way 
that the food itself tastes good, but today all the effort goes 
instead into adding tastiness to food. Ironically, delicious 
foods have all but vanished. 

People tried to make delicious bread, and delicious 
bread disappeared. In trying to make rich luxurious foods 
they made useless foods, and now people's appetites are 

The best methods of food preparation preserve 
nature's delicate flavors. The daily wisdom of long ago 
enabled people to make the various kinds of vegetable 
pickles, such as sun-dried pickles, salt-pickles, bran- 
pickles, and miso -pickles, so that the flavor of the 
vegetable itself was also preserved. 

The art of cooking begins with sea salt and a crackling 
fire. When food is prepared by someone sensitive to the 
fundamentals of cookery, it maintains its natural flavor. If, 
by being cooked, food takes on some strange and exotic 
flavor, and if the purpose of this change is merely to delight 
the palate, this is false cooking. 

Culture is usually thought of as something created, 
maintained, and developed by humanity's efforts alone. But 
culture always originates in the partnership of man and 
nature. When the union of human society and nature is 
realized, culture takes shape of itself. Culture has always 
been closely connected with daily life, and so has been 

passed on to future generations, and has been preserved up 
to the present time. 

Something born from human pride and the quest for 
pleasure cannot be considered true culture. True culture is 
born within nature, and is simple, humble, and pure. 
Lacking true culture, humanity will perish. 

When people rejected natural food and took up 
refined food instead, society set out on a path toward its 
own destruction. This is because such food is not the 
product of true culture. Food is life, and life must not step 
away from nature. 

Living by Bread Alone 

There is nothing better than eating delicious food, but 
for most people eating is just a way to nourish the body, to 
have energy to work and to live to an old age. Mothers 
often tell their children to eat their food — even if they do 
not like the taste — because it is "good " for them. 

But nutrition cannot be separated from the sense of 
taste. Nutritious foods, good for the human body, whet the 
appetite and are delicious on their own account. Proper 
nourishment is inseparable from good flavor. 

Not too long ago the daily meal of the farmers in this 
area consisted of rice and barley with miso and pickled 
vegetables. This diet gave long life, a strong constitution, 
and good health. Stewed vegetables and steamed rice with 
red beans was a once-a-month feast. The farmer's healthy, 
robust body was able to nourish itself well on this simple 
rice diet. 

The traditional brown rice-and-vegetable diet of the 
East is very different from that of most Western societies. 
Western nutritional science believes that unless certain 
amounts of starch, fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins are 
eaten each day, a well-balanced diet and good health 
cannot be preserved. This belief produced the mother who 
stuffs "nutritious" food into her youngster's mouth. 

One might suppose that Western dietetics, with its 
elaborate theories and calculations, could leave no doubts 
about proper diet. The fact is, it creates far more problems 
than it resolves. 

One problem is that in Western nutritional science 
there is no effort to adjust the diet to the natural cycle. The 
diet that results serves to isolate human beings from nature. 
A fear of nature and a general sense of insecurity are often 
the unfortunate results. 

Another problem is that spiritual and emotional values 
are entirely forgotten, even though foods are directly 
connected with human spirit and emotions. If the human 
being is viewed merely as a physiological object, it is 
impossible to produce a coherent understanding of diet. 
When bits and pieces of information are collected and 
brought together in confusion, the result is an imperfect 
diet which draws away from nature. 

"Within one thing lie all things, but if all things are 
brought together not one thing can arise." Western science 
is unable to grasp this precept of eastern philosophy. A 
person can analyze and investigate a butterfly as far as he 
likes, but he cannot make a butterfly. 

If the Western scientific diet were put into practice on 
a wide scale, what sort of practical problems do you 
suppose would occur? High quality beef, eggs, milk, 
vegetables, bread, and other foods would have to be readily 
available all year around. Large scale production and long- 
term storage would become necessary. Already in Japan, 
adoption of this diet has caused farmers to produce summer 
vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, eggplants, and 
tomatoes in the winter. It will not be long before farmers 
are asked to harvest persimmons in spring and peaches in 
the autumn. 

It is unreasonable to expect that a wholesome, 
balanced diet can be achieved simply by supplying a great 
variety of foods regardless of the season. Compared with 
plants which ripen naturally, vegetables and fruits grown 
out-of-season under necessarily unnatural conditions 
contain few vitamins and minerals. It is not surprising that 
summer vegetables grown in the autumn or winter have 
none of the flavor and fragrance of those grown beneath the 
sun by organic and natural methods. 

Chemical analysis, nutritional ratios, and other such 
considerations are the main causes of error. The food 
prescribed by modern science is far from the traditional 
Oriental diet, and it is undermining the health of the 
Japanese people. 

Summing Up Diet 

In this world there exist four main classifications of 


(1) A lax diet conforming to habitual desires and taste 
preferences. People following this diet sway back and forth 
erratically in response to whims and fancies. This diet 
could be called self-indulgent, empty eating. 

(2) The standard nutritional diet of most people, 
proceeding from biological conclusions. Nutritious foods 
are eaten for the purpose of maintaining the life of the 
body. It could be called materialist, scientific eating. 

(3) The diet based on spiritual principles and 
idealistic philosophy. Limiting foods, aiming toward 
compression, most "natural" diets fall into this category. 
This could be called the diet of principle. 

(4) The natural diet, following the will of heaven. 
Discarding all human knowledge, this diet could be called 
the diet of non-discrimination. 

People first draw away from the empty diet which is 
the source of countless diseases. Next, becoming 
disenchanted with the scientific diet, which merely 
attempts to maintain biological life, many proceed to a diet 
of principle. Finally, transcending this, one arrives at the 
non-discriminating diet of the natural person. 

The Diet of Non-Discrimination 

Human life is not sustained by its own power. Nature 
gives birth to human beings and keeps them alive. This is 
the relation in which people stand to nature. Food is a gift 
of heaven. People do not create foods from nature; heaven 
bestows them. 

Food is food and food is not food. It is a part of man 
and is apart from man. 

When food, the body, the heart, and the mind become 
perfectly united within nature, a natural diet becomes 
possible. The body as it is, following its own instinct, 
eating if something tastes good, abstaining if it does not, is 

It is impossible to prescribe rules and proportions for 
a natural diet.* This diet defines itself according to the 
local environment, and the various needs and the bodily 
constitution of each person. 

*A definite code or system by which one can consciously decide these 
questions is impossible. Nature, or the body itself, serves as a capable 
guide. But this subtle guidance goes unheard by most people because of 
the clamor caused by desire and by the activity of the discriminating 

The Diet of Principle 

Everyone should be aware that nature is always 
complete, balanced in perfect harmony within itself. 
Natural food is whole and within the whole are 
nourishment and subtle flavors. 

It appears that, by applying the system of yin and 
yang, people can explain the origin of the universe and the 
transformations of nature. It may also seem that the 
harmony of the human body can be determined and 
consciously sustained. But if the doctrines are entered into 
too deeply (as is necessary in the study of Eastern 
medicine) one enters the domain of science and fails to 
make the essential escape from discriminating perception. 

Swept along by the subtleties of human knowledge 
without recognizing its limits, the practitioner of the diet of 
principle comes to concern himself only with separate 
objects. But when trying to grasp the meaning of nature 
with a wide and far-reaching vision, he fails to notice the 
small things happening at his feet. 

The Typical Sick Person's Diet 

Sickness comes when people draw apart from nature. 
The severity of the disease is directly proportional to the 
degree of separation. If a sick person returns to a healthy 
environment often the disease will disappear. When 
alienation from nature becomes extreme, the number of 
sick people increases. Then the desire to return to nature 
becomes stronger. But in seeking to return to nature, there 
is no clear understanding of what nature is, and so the 
attempt proves futile. 

Even if one lives a primitive life back in the 
mountains, he may still fail to grasp the true objective. If 
you try to do something, your efforts will never achieve the 
desired result. 

People living in the cities face tremendous difficulty 
in trying to attain a natural diet. Natural food is simply not 
available, because farmers have stopped growing it. Even if 
they could buy natural food, people's bodies would need to 
be fit to digest such hearty fare. 

In this sort of situation, if you try to eat wholesome 
meals or attain a balanced yin-yang diet, you need 
practically supernatural means and powers of judgment. 
Far from a return to nature, a complicated, strange sort of 
"natural" diet arises and the individual is only drawn 
further away from nature. 

If you look inside "health food" stores these days you 
will find a bewildering assortment of fresh foods, packaged 
foods, vitamins, and dietary supplements. In the literature 
many different types of diets are presented as being 

"natural," nutritious, and the best for health. If someone 
says it is healthful to boil foods together, there is someone 
else who says foods boiled together are only good for 
making people sick. Some emphasize the essential value of 
salt in the diet, others say that too much salt causes disease. 
If there is someone who shuns fruit as yin and food for 
monkeys, there is someone else who says fruit and 
vegetables are the very best foods for providing longevity 
and a happy disposition. 

At various times and in various circumstances all of 
these opinions could be said to be correct, and so people 
come to be confused. Or rather, to a confused person, all of 
these theories become material for creating greater 

Nature is in constant transition, changing from 
moment to moment. People cannot grasp nature's true 
appearance. The face of nature is unknowable. Trying to 
capture the unknowable in theories and formalized 
doctrines is like trying to catch the wind in a butterfly net. 

If you hit the mark on the wrong target, you have 

Humanity is like a blind man who does not know 
where he is heading. He gropes around with the cane of 
scientific knowledge, depending on yin and yang to set his 

What I want to say is, don't eat food with your head, 
and that is to say get rid of the discriminating mind. I hoped 
that the food mandala I drew earlier would serve as a guide 
to show at a glance the relationship of various foods to each 
other and to human beings. But you can throw that away 
too after you have seen it once. 

The prime consideration is for a person to develop the 
sensitivity to allow the body to choose food by itself. 
Thinking only about the foods themselves and leaving the 
spirit aside, is like making visits to the temple, reading the 
sutras, and leaving Buddha on the outside. Rather than 
studying philosophical theory to reach an understanding of 
food, it is better to arrive at a theory from within one's daily 

Doctors take care of sick people; healthy people are 
cared for by nature. Instead of getting sick and then 
becoming absorbed in a natural diet to get well, one should 
live in a natural environment so that sickness does not 

The young people who come to stay in the huts on the 
mountain and live a primitive life, eating natural foods and 
practicing natural farming, are aware of man's ultimate 
purpose, and they have set out to live in accordance with it 
in the most direct way. 

Food and Farming 

This book on natural farming necessarily includes a 
consideration of natural food. This is because food and 
farming are the front and back of one body. It is clearer 
than firelight that if natural farming is not practiced natural 
food will not be available to the public. But if natural diet is 
not established the farmer will remain confused about what 
to grow. 

Unless people become natural people, there can be 
neither natural farming nor natural food. In one of the huts 
on the mountain I left the words, "Right Food, Right 
Action, Right Awareness"* inscribed on a pinewood plaque 
above the fireplace. The three cannot be separated from one 
another. If one is missing, none can be realized. If one is 
realized, all are realized. 

People complacently view the world as a place where 
"progress" grows out of turmoil and confusion. But 
purposeless and destructive development invites confusion 
of thought, invites nothing less than the degeneration and 
collapse of humankind. If it is not clearly understood what 
the non-moving source of all this activity is — what nature 
is — it will be impossible to recover our health. 

*This motto is phrased after the Buddhist Eightfold Path of spiritual 

Foolishness Comes Out Looking Smart 

The autumn nights are long and chilly. The time 
would be well spent gazing into glowing coals, hands 
pressed around a warm cup of tea. It is said that anything is 
fine to talk about while sitting around the fire, and so, 
thinking that the grudges of my fellow farmers would be an 
interesting topic, I have casually brought up the subject. 
But it seems there are going to be some problems. 

Here I have been, talking all the time about how 
everything is of no account, saying that humanity is 
ignorant, that there is nothing to strive for, and that 
whatever is done is wasted effort. How can I say that and 
then go on chattering like this? If I push myself to write 
something, the only thing to write is that writing is useless. 
It is very perplexing. 

I do not care to dwell on my own past long enough to 
write about it, and I am not wise enough to predict the 
future. Stirring the fire while making hearthside 
conversation on daily affairs, how can I ask anybody to put 
up with an old farmer's foolish notions? 

On the ridgetop of the orchard, overlooking 
Matsuyama Bay and the broad Dogo Plain, are several 
small, mudwalled huts. There, a handful of people have 
gathered and are living a simple life together. There are no 
modern conveniences. Spending peaceful evenings beneath 
candle and lamplight, they live a life of simple necessities: 
brown rice, vegetables, a robe and a bowl. They come from 
somewhere, stay for a while, and then move on. 

Among the guests are agricultural researchers, 
students, scholars, farmers, hippies, poets and wanderers, 
young and old, men and women of various types and 
nationalities. Most of those who stay for a long time are 
young people in need of a period of introspection. 

My function is to act as caretaker of this wayside inn, 
serving tea to the travellers who come and go. And while 
they are helping out in the fields, I enjoy listening to how 
things are going in the world. 

This sounds fine, but actually it is not such a soft and 
easy life. I advocate "do-nothing" farming, and so many 
people come, thinking they will find a Utopia where one 
can live without ever having to get out of bed. These 
people are in for a big surprise. Hauling water from the 
spring in the early morning fog, splitting firewood until 
their hands are red and stinging with blisters, working 
ankle-deep in mud — there are many who quickly call it 

The orchard and huts from the mountain above. 

Today, as I watched a group of young people work on 
a tiny hut, a young woman from Funabashi came walking 

When I asked why she had come, she said, "I just 
came, that's all. I don't know anything anymore." 

Bright young lady, nonchalant, has her wits about her. 

I then asked, "If you know you are unenlightened, 
there is nothing to say, right? In coming to understand the 
world through the power of discrimination, people lose 
sight of its meaning. Isn't that why the world is in such a 

She answered softly, "Yes, if you say so." 

"Maybe you don't have a really clear idea of what 
enlightenment is. What kind of books did you read before 
coming here?" 

She shook her head in rejection of reading. 

People study because they think they do not 
understand, but studying is not going to help one to 
understand. They study hard only to find out in the end that 
people cannot know anything, that understanding lies 
beyond human reach. 

Usually people think that the word "non- 
understanding" applies when you say, for example, that you 
understand nine things, but there is one thing you do not 
understand. But intending to understand ten things, you 
actually do not understand even one. If you know a 
hundred flowers you do not "know" a single one. People 
struggle hard to understand, convince themselves that they 
understand, and die knowing nothing. 

The young people took a break from their carpentry, 
sat down on the grass near a big mandarin orange tree, and 
looked up at the wispy clouds in the southern sky. 

People think that when they turn their eyes from the 
earth to the sky they see the heavens. They set the orange 
fruit apart from the green leaves and say they know the 

green of the leaves and the orange of the fruit. But from the 
instant one makes a distinction between green and orange, 
the true colors vanish. 

People think they understand things because they 
become familiar with them. This is only superficial 
knowledge. It is the knowledge of the astronomer who 
knows the names of the stars, the botanist who knows the 
classification of the leaves and flowers, the artist who 
knows the aesthetics of green and red. This is not to know 
nature itself — the earth and sky, green and red. 
Astronomer, botanist, and artist have done no more than 
grasp impressions and interpret them, each within the vault 
of his own mind. The more involved they become with the 
activity of the intellect, the more they set themselves apart 
and the more difficult it becomes to live naturally. 

The tragedy is that in their unfounded arrogance, 
people attempt to bend nature to their will. Human beings 
can destroy natural forms, but they cannot create them. 
Discrimination, a fragmented and incomplete 
understanding, always forms the starting point of human 
knowledge. Unable to know the whole of nature, people 
can do no better than to construct an incomplete model of it 
and then delude themselves into thinking that they have 
created something natural. 

All someone has to do to know nature is to realize that 
he does not really know anything, that he is unable to know 
anything. It can then be expected that he will lose interest 
in discriminating knowledge. When he abandons 
discriminating knowledge, non-discriminating knowledge 
of itself arises within him. If he does not try to think about 
knowing, if he does not care about understanding, the time 
will come when he will understand. There is no other way 
than through the destruction of the ego, casting aside the 
thought that humans exist apart from heaven and earth. 

"This means being foolish instead of being smart," I 
snapped at a young fellow who had a wise look of 
complacency on his face. "What kind of look is that in your 
eyes? Foolishness comes out looking smart. Do you know 
for sure whether you're smart or foolish, or are you trying 
to become a foolish-type smart guy? You can't become 
smart, can't become foolish, stuck at a standstill. Isn't that 
where you are now?" 

Before I knew it I was angry with myself for repeating 
the same words over and over again, words which could 
never match the wisdom of remaining silent, words I 
myself could not understand. 

The autumn sun was sinking low on the horizon. 
Twilight colors approached the foot of the old tree. With 
the light from the Inland Sea at their backs, the silent 

youths returned slowly to the huts for their evening meal. I 
followed quietly behind in the shadows. 

Who Is the Fool? 

It is said that there is no creature as wise as the human 
being. By applying this wisdom, people have become the 
only animals capable of nuclear war. 

The other day the head of the natural foods store in 
front of Osaka Station climbed up the mountain, bringing 
along seven companions, like the seven gods of good 
fortune. At noon, while we were feasting on an impromptu 
brown rice hodgepodge, one of them told the following: 
"Among children there is always one without a care in the 
world who laughs happily as he pees, there is another who 
always ends up the 'horse' when playing 'horse and rider,' 
and always a third who is clever at tricking the others out 
of their afternoon snack. Before the head of the class is 
chosen, the teacher talks seriously about the desirable 
qualities of a good leader and the importance of making a 
wise decision. When the election is held, it is the youngster 
who laughs happily by the side of the road who is chosen." 

Everyone was amused, but I could not understand 
why they were laughing. I thought it was only natural. 

If things are seen in terms of gain and loss, one must 
regard as the loser the child who always ends up playing 
the role of the horse, but greatness and mediocrity do not 
apply to children. The teacher thought the clever child was 
the most remarkable, but the other children saw him as 
being clever in the wrong way, someone who would 
oppress others. 

To think that the one who is smart and can look out 
for himself is exceptional, and that it is better to be 
exceptional, is to follow "adult" values. The one who goes 
about his own business, eats and sleeps well, the one with 
nothing to worry about, would seem to me to be living in 
the most satisfactory manner. There is no one so great as 
the one who does not try to accomplish anything. 

In Aesop's fable, when the frogs asked god for a king, 
he presented them with a log. The frogs made fun of the 
dumb log and when they asked the god for a greater king, 
he sent down a crane. As the story goes, the crane pecked 
all the frogs to death. 

If the one who stands out in front is great, the ones 
who follow behind have to struggle and strain. If you set a 
regular fellow up in front, those who come after have an 
easy time. People think that someone who is strong and 
clever is outstanding, and so they select a prime minister 
who pulls the country like a diesel locomotive. 

"What kind of person should be chosen for prime 

"A dumb log," I replied. "There's nobody better than 
daruma-san, * " I replied. "He is such a relaxed fellow he 
can sit for years in meditation without saying a word. If 
you give him a shove he rolls over, but with the persistence 
of non-resistance he always sits back up. Damma-san 
doesn't just sit idly by, keeping his hands and feet folded. 
Knowing that you should keep them folded, he scowls 
silently at the people who want to stick theirs out." 

"If you did nothing at all the world could not keep 
running. What would the world be without development?" 

"Why do you have to develop? If economic growth 
rises from 5% to 10% , is happiness going to double? 
What's wrong with a growth rate of 0% ? Isn't this a rather 
stable kind of economics ? Could there be anything better 
than living simply and taking it easy?" 

People find something out, learn how it works, and 
put nature to use, thinking this will be for the good of 
humankind. The result of all this, up to now, is that the 
planet has become polluted, people have become confused, 
and we have invited in the chaos of modern times. 

"We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to 
bring about a 'movement' not to bring anything about." 

At this farm we practice "do-nothing" farming and eat 
wholesome and delicious grains, vegetables, and citrus. 
There is meaning and basic satisfaction just in living close 
to the source of things. Life is song and poetry. 

*Daiuma-san is a popular Japanese children's toy. It is a big balloon, 
weighted at the bottom, in the shape of a monk seated in meditation. 

The farmer became too busy when people began to 
investigate the world and decided that it would be "good" if 
we did this or did that. All my research has been in the 
direction of not doing this or that. These thirty years have 
taught me that farmers would have been better off doing 
almost nothing at all. 

The more people do, the more society develops, the 
more problems arise. The increasing desolation of nature, 
the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and 
disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought 
about by humanity's trying to accomplish something. 
Originally there was no reason to progress, and nothing that 
had to be done. We have come to the point at which there is 
no other way than to bring about a "movement" not to bring 
anything about. 

I Was Born to Go to Nursery School 

A young man with a small bag over his shoulder 
walked leisurely up to where we were working in the fields. 
"Where are you from?" I asked. 
"Over there." 
"How did you get here?" 
"I walked." 

"What did you come here for?" 
"I don't know." 

Most of those who come here are in no hurry to reveal 
their names or the story of their past. They do not make 
their purpose very clear either. Since many of them do not 
know why they come, but just come, this is only natural. 

From the first, man does not know where he comes 
from or where he is going. To say that you are born from 
your mother's womb and return to the earth is a biological 
explanation, but no one really knows what exists before 
birth or what kind of world is waiting after death. 

Born without knowing the reason only to close one's 
eyes and depart for the infinite unknown — the human being 
is indeed a tragic creature. 

The other day, I had found a woven sedge hat left by a 
group of pilgrims who were visiting the temples of 
Shikoku. On it were written the words, "Originally no east 
or west / Ten infinite directions." Now, holding the hat in 
my hands, I asked the youth again where he had come 
from, and he said that he was the son of a temple priest in 
Kanazawa, and since it was just foolishness to read 
scriptures to the dead all day, he wanted to become a 

There is no east or west. The sun comes up in the east, 
sets in the west, but this is merely an astronomical 
observation. Knowing that you do not understand either 
east or west is closer to the truth. The fact is, no one knows 
where the sun comes from. 

Among the tens of thousands of scriptures, the one to 
be most grateful for, the one where all the important points 
are made, is the Heart Sutra. According to this sutra, "The 
Lord Buddha declared, 'Form is emptiness, emptiness is 
form. Matter and the spirit are one, but all is void. Man is 
not alive, is not dead, is unborn and undying, without old 
age and disease, without increase and without decrease.'" 

The other day while we were cutting the rice, I said to 
the youths who were resting against a big pile of straw, "I 
was thinking that when rice is planted in the spring, the 
seed sends out living shoots, and now, as we are reaping, it 

appears to die. The fact that this ritual is repeated year after 
year means that life continues in this field and the yearly 
death is itself yearly birth. You could say that the rice we 
are cutting now lives continuously." 

Human beings usually see life and death in a rather 
short perspective. What meaning can the birth of spring and 
the death of autumn have for this grass? People think that 
life is joy and death is sadness, but the rice seed, lying 
within the earth and sending out shoots in spring, its leaves 
and stems withering in the fall, still holds within its tiny 
core the full joy of life. The joy of life does not depart in 
death. Death is no more than a momentary passing. 
Wouldn't you say that this rice, because it possesses the full 
joyousness of life, does not know the sorrow of death? 

The same thing that happens to rice and barley goes 
on continuously within the human body. Day by day hair 
and nails grow, tens of thousands of cells die, tens of 
thousands more are born; the blood in the body a month 
ago is not the same blood today. When you think that your 
own characteristics will be propagated in the bodies of your 
children and grandchildren, you could say that you are 
dying and being reborn each day, and yet will live on for 
many generations after death. 

If participation in this cycle can be experienced and 
savored each day, nothing more is necessary. But most 
people are not able to enjoy life as it passes and changes 
from day to day. They cling to life as they have already 
experienced it, and this habitual attachment brings fear of 
death. Paying attention only to the past, which has already 
gone, or to the future, which has yet to come, they forget 
that they are living on the earth here and now. Struggling in 
confusion, they watch their lives pass as in a dream. 

"If life and death are realities, isn't human suffering 

"There is no life or death." 

"How can you say that?" 

The world itself is a unity of matter within the flow of 
experience, but people's minds divide phenomena into 
dualities such as life and death, yin and yang, being and 
emptiness. The mind comes to believe in the absolute 
validity of what the senses perceive and then, for the first 
time, matter as it is turns into objects as human beings 
normally perceive them. 

The forms of the material world, concepts of life and 
death, health and disease, joy and sorrow, all originate in 
the human mind. In the sutra, when Buddha said that all is 
void, he was not only denying intrinsic reality to anything 
which is constructed by human intellect, but he was also 
declaring that human emotions are illusions. 

"You mean all is illusion? There's nothing left?" 
"Nothing left? The concept of 'void' still remains in your 
mind apparently," I said to the youth. "If you don't know 
where you came from or where you're going, then how can 
you be sure you're here, standing in front of me? Is 
existence meaningless?" 

The other morning I heard a four-year-old girl ask her 
mother, "Why was I born into this world? To go to nursery 

Naturally her mother could not honestly say, "Yes, 
that's right, so off you go." And yet, you could say that 
people these days are born to go to nursery school. 

Right up through college people study diligently to 
learn why they were born. Scholars and philosophers, even 
if they ruin their lives in the attempt, say they will be 
satisfied to understand this one thing. 

Originally human beings had no purpose. Now, 
dreaming up some purpose or other, they struggle away 
trying to find the meaning of life. It is a one-man wrestling 
match. There is no purpose one has to think about, or go 
out in search of. You would do well to ask the children 
whether or not a life without purpose is meaningless. 

From the time they enter nursery school, people's 
sorrows begin. The human being was a happy creature, but 
he created a hard world and now struggles trying to break 
out of it. 

In nature there is life and death, and nature is joyful. 
In human society there is life and death, and people 
live in sorrow. 

Drifting Clouds and the Illusion of 

This morning I am washing citrus storage boxes by 
the river. As I stoop on a flat rock, my hands feel the chill 
of the autumn river. The red leaves of the sumacs along the 
river bank stand out against the clear blue autumn sky. I am 
struck with wonder by the unexpected splendor of the 
branches against the sky. 

Within this casual scene the entire world of 
experience is present. In the flowing water, the flow of 
time, the left bank and right bank, the sunshine and 
shadows, the red leaves and blue sky — all appear within the 
sacred, silent book of nature. And man is a slender, 
thinking reed. 

Once he inquires what nature is, he then must inquire 
what that "what" is, and what that human who inquires 
what that "what" is is. He heads, that is to say, into a world 
of endless questioning. 

In trying to gain a clear understanding of what it is 
that fills him with wonder, what it is that astonishes him, he 
has two possible paths. The first is to look deeply into 
himself, at him who asks the question, "What is nature?" 

The second is to examine nature apart from man. 

The first path leads to the realm of philosophy and 
religion. Gazing vacantly, it is not unnatural to see the 
water as flowing from above to below, but there is no 
inconsistency in seeing the water as standing still and the 
bridge as flowing by. 

If, on the other hand, following the second path, the 
scene is divided into a variety of natural phenomena, the 
water, the speed of the current, the waves, the wind and 
white clouds, all of these separately become objects of 
investigation, leading to further questions, which spread out 
endlessly in all directions. This is the path of science. 

The world used to be simple. You merely noticed in 
passing that you got wet by brushing against the drops of 
dew while meandering through the meadow. But from the 
time people undertook to explain this one drop of dew 
scientifically, they trapped themselves in the endless hell of 
the intellect. 

Water molecules are made up of atoms of hydrogen 
and oxygen. People once thought that the smallest particles 
in the world were atoms, but then they found out that there 
was a nucleus inside the atom. Now they have discovered 
that within the nucleus there are even tinier particles. 

Among these nuclear particles there are hundreds of 
different varieties and no one knows where the examination 
of this minute world will end. 

It is said that the way electrons orbit at ultra-high 
speeds within the atom is exactly like the flight of comets 
within the galaxy. To the atomic physicist the world of 
elementary particles is a world as vast as the universe itself. 
Yet it has been shown that in addition to the immediate 
galaxy in which we live there are countless other galaxies. 
In the eyes of the cosmologist, then, our entire galaxy 
becomes infinitesimally small. 

The fact is that people who think a drop of water is 
simple or that a rock is fixed and inert are happy, ignorant 
fools, and the scientists who know that the drop of water is 
a great universe and the rock is an active world of 
elementary particles streaming about like rockets, are 
clever fools. Looked at simply, this world is real and at 
hand. Seen as complex, the world becomes frighteningly 
abstract and distant. 

The scientists who rejoiced when rocks were brought 
back from the moon have less grasp of the moon than the 
children who sing out, "How old are you, Mr. Moon?" 
Basho* could apprehend the wonder of nature by watching 
the reflection of the full moon in the tranquillity of a pond. 
All the scientists did when they went off into space and 
stomped around in their spaceboots was to tarnish a bit of 
the moon's splendor for millions of lovers and children on 
the earth. 

How is it that people think science is beneficial to 

Originally grain was ground into flour in this village 
by a stone mill which was turned slowly by hand. Then a 
watermill, which had incomparably greater momentum 
than the old stone grinder, was built to utilize the power of 
the river current. Several years ago a dam was constructed 
to produce hydroelectric power and an electrically powered 
mill was built. 

*A famous Japanese haiku poet (1644-1694). 

How do you think this advanced machinery works for 
the benefit of human beings? In order to grind rice into flour, 
it is first polished — that is, made into white rice. This means 
husking the grain, removing the germ and the bran, which 
are the basis of good health, and keeping the leftovers.** 
And so the result of this technology is the breaking down of 
the whole grain into incomplete by-products. If the too easily 
digestible white rice becomes the daily staple, the diet lacks 
nutrients, and dietary supplements become necessary. The 
water wheel and the milling factory are doing the work of 
the stomach and intestines, and their consequence is to make 
these organs lazy. 

It is the same with fuel. Crude oil is formed when the 
tissue of ancient plants buried deep in the earth is 
transformed by great pressure and heat. This substance is 
dug out of the desert, sent to a port by pipeline, and then 
transported by boat to Japan and refined into kerosene and 
oil at a big refinery. 

Which do you think is quicker, warmer, and more 
convenient, burning this kerosene or branches of cedar or 
pine from in front of the house? *** The fuel is the same 
plant matter. The oil and kerosene just followed a longer 
path in getting here. 

Now they are saying that the fossil fuels are not 
enough, and that we need to develop atomic energy. To 
search out the scarce uranium ore, compress it into 
radioactive fuel and burn it in a huge nuclear furnace is not 
as easy as burning dried leaves with a match. Moreover, the 
hearth fire leaves only ashes, but after a nuclear fire has 
burned, the radioactive waste remains dangerous for many 
thousands of years. The same principle holds in agriculture. 
Grow a soft, fat rice plant in a flooded field and you get a 
plant easily attacked by insects and disease. If "improved" 
seed varieties are used one must rely on the help of 
chemical insecticides and fertilizer. 

On the other hand, if you grow a small, sturdy plant in 
a healthy environment, these chemicals are unnecessary. 

Cultivate a flooded rice field with a plow or tractor 
and the soil becomes deficient in oxygen, the soil structure 
is broken down, earthworms and other small animals are 
destroyed, and the earth becomes hard and lifeless. Once 
this happens, the field must be turned every year. 

**In Japanese the character for leftovers — pronounced kasu — is 
composed of radicals meaning "white" and "rice ; " the character for 
bran — nuka — is made up of "rice" and "health." 

***At the present time much of the world is faced with a shortage of 
firewood. Implicit in Mr. Fukuoka's argument is the need to plant trees. 

More broadly, Mr. Fukuoka is suggesting modest, direct answers 
to the needs of daily life. 

But if a method is adopted in which the earth 
cultivates itself naturally, there is no need for a plow or 
cultivating machine. 

After the living soil is burned clean of organic matter 
and microorganisms, the use of fast-acting fertilizers 
becomes necessary. If chemical fertilizer is used the rice 
grows fast and tall, but so do the weeds. Herbicides are 
then applied and thought to be beneficial. 

But if clover is sown with the grain, and all the straw 
and organic residues are returned to the surface of the field 
as mulch, crops can be grown without herbicides, chemical 
fertilizer or prepared compost. 

In farming there is little that cannot be eliminated. 
Prepared fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, machinery — all 
are unnecessary. But if a condition is created in which they 
become necessary, then the power of science is required. 

I have demonstrated in my fields that natural farming 
produces harvests comparable to those of modern scientific 
agriculture. If the results of a non-active agriculture are 
comparable to those of science, at a fraction of the 
investment in labor and resources, then where is the benefit 
of scientific technology? 

The Theory of Relativity 

Looking out into the bright sunlight of the autumn 
sky, scanning the surrounding fields, I was amazed. In 
every field but mine there was a rice harvesting machine or 
combine running around. In the last three years, this village 
has changed beyond recognition. 

As one might expect, the youths on the mountain do 
not envy the changeover to mechanization. They enjoy the 
quiet, peaceful harvest with the old hand sickle. 

Sharpening a long-handled scythe. 

That night as we were finishing the evening meal, I 
recalled over tea how, long ago in this village, in the days 
when the farmers were turning the fields by hand, one man 
began to use a cow. He was very proud of the ease and 
speed with which he could finish the laborious job of 
plowing. Twenty years ago when the first mechanical 
cultivator made its appearance, the villagers all got together 
and debated seriously which was better, the cow or the 
machine. In two or three years it became clear that plowing 
by machine was faster, and without looking beyond 
considerations of time and convenience, the farmers 
abandoned their draft animals. The inducement was simply 
to finish the job more quickly than the farmer in the next 

The farmer does not realize that he has merely 
become a factor in modern agriculture's equation of 
increasing speed and efficiency. He lets the farm equipment 
salesman do all the figuring for him. 

Originally people would look into a starry night sky 
and feel awe at the vastness of the universe. Now questions 

of time and space are left entirely to the consideration of 

It is said that Einstein was given the Nobel Prize in 
physics in deference to the incomprehensibility of his 
theory of relativity. If his theory had explained clearly the 
phenomenon of relativity in the world and thus released 
humanity from the confines of time and space, bringing 
about a more pleasant and peaceful world, it would have 
been commendable. His explanation is bewildering, 
however, and it caused people to think that the world is 
complex beyond all possible understanding. A citation for 
"disturbing the peace of the human spirit" should have been 
awarded instead. 

In nature, the world of relativity does not exist. The 
idea of relative phenomena is a structure given to 
experience by the human intellect. Other animals live in a 
world of undivided reality. To the extent that one lives in 
the relative world of the intellect, one loses sight of time 
that is beyond time and of space that is beyond space. 

"You might be wondering why I have this habit of 
picking on the scientists all the time," I said, pausing to 
take a sip of tea. The youths looked up smiling, faces 
glowing and flickering in the firelight. "It's because the role 
of the scientist in society is analogous to the role of 
discrimination in your own minds." 

A Village Without War and Peace 

A snake seizes a frog in its mouth and slips away into 
the grass. A girl screams. A brave lad bares his feelings of 
loathing and flings a rock at the snake. The others laugh. I 
turn to the boy who threw the stone: "What do you think 
that's going to accomplish?" 

The hawk hunts the snake. The wolf attacks the hawk. 
A human kills the wolf, and later succumbs to a 
tuberculosis virus. Bacteria breed in the remains of the 
human, and other animals, grasses, and trees thrive on the 
nutrients made available by the bacteria's activity. Insects 
attack the trees, the frog eats the insects. 

Animals, plants, microorganisms — all are part of the 
cycle of life. Maintaining a suitable balance, they live a 
naturally regulated existence. People may choose to view 
this world either as a model of strong consuming weak, or 
of co-existence and mutual benefit. Either way, it is an 
arbitrary interpretation which causes wind and waves, 
brings about disorder and confusion. 

Adults think the frog is deserving of pity, and feeling 
compassion for its death, despise the snake. This feeling 
may seem to be natural, just a matter of course, but is this 
what it really is? 

One youth said, "If life is seen as a contest in which 
the strong consume the weak, the face of the earth becomes 
a hell of carnage and destruction. But it is unavoidable that 
the weak should be sacrificed so that the strong may live. 
That the strong win and survive and the weak die out is a 
rule of nature. After the passage of millions of years, the 
creatures now living on the earth have been victorious in 
the struggle for life. You could say that the survival of the 
fittest is a providence of nature." 

Said a second youth, "That's how it appears to the 
winners, anyway. The way I see it, this world is one of co- 
existence and mutual benefit. At the foot of the grain in this 
field, clover, and so many varieties of grasses and weeds 
are living mutually beneficial lives. Ivy winds around the 
trees, moss and lichen live attached to the tree's trunk and 
branches. Ferns spread beneath the forest canopy. Birds 
and frogs, plants, insects, small animals, bacteria, fungi — 
all creatures perform essential roles and benefit from one 
another's existence." 

A third spoke, "The earth is a world of the strong 
consuming the weak, and also one of co-existence. The 
stronger creatures take no more food than necessary; 

though they attack other creatures, the overall balance of 
nature is maintained. The providence of nature is an 
ironclad rule, preserving peace and order upon the earth." 

Three people and three points of view. I met all three 
opinions with a flat denial. 

The world itself never asks whether it is based upon a 
principle of competition or of cooperation. When seen from 
the relative perspective of the human intellect, there are 
those who are strong and there are those who are weak, 
there is large and there is small. 

Now there is no one who doubts that this relative 
outlook exists, but if we were to suppose that the relativity 
of human perception is mistaken — for example, that 
there is no big and no small, no up or down — if we say 
there is no such standpoint at all, human values and 
judgment would collapse. 

"Isn't that way of seeing the world an empty flight of 
the imagination? In reality, there are large countries and 
small countries. If there is poverty and plenty, strong and 
weak, inevitably there will be disputes, and consequently, 
winners and losers. Couldn't you say, rather, that these 
relative perceptions and the resulting emotions are human 
and therefore natural, that they are a unique privilege of 
being human?" 

Other animals fight but do not make war. If you say 
that making war, which depends upon ideas of strong and 
weak, is humanity's special "privilege," then life is a farce. 
Not knowing this farce to be a farce — there lies the human 

The ones who live peacefully in a world of no 
contradictions and no distinctions are infants. They 
perceive light and dark, strong and weak, but make no 
judgments. Even though the snake and the frog exist, the 
child has no understanding of strong and weak. The 
original joy of life is there, but the fear of death is yet to 

The love and hate which arise in the adult's eyes 
originally were not two separate things. They are the same 
thing as seen from the front and from the back. Love gives 
substance to hate. If you turn the coin of love over, it 
becomes hate. Only by penetrating to an absolute world of 
no aspects, is it possible to avoid becoming lost in the 
duality of the phenomenal world. 

People distinguish between Self and Other. To the 
extent that the ego exists, to the extent that there is an 
"other," people will not be relieved from love and hatred. 
The heart that loves the wicked ego creates the hated 
enemy. For humans, the first and greatest enemy is the 
Self that they hold so dear. 

"In nature, the world of relativity does not exist.' 

People choose to attack or to defend. In the ensuing 
struggle they accuse one another of instigating conflict. It is 
like clapping your hands and then arguing about which is 
making the sound, the right hand or the left. In all 
contentions there is neither right nor wrong, neither good 
nor bad. All conscious distinctions arise at the same time 
and all are mistaken. 

To build a fortress is wrong from the start. Even 
though he gives the excuse that it is for the city's defense, 
the castle is the outcome of the ruling lord's personality, 
and exerts a coercive force on the surrounding area. Saying 
he is afraid of attack and that fortification is for the town's 
protection, the bully stocks up Weapons and puts the key in 
the door. 

The act of defense is already an attack. Weapons for 
self-defense always give a pretext to those who instigate 
wars. The calamity of war comes from the strengthening 
and magnifying of empty distinctions of self/other, 
strong/weak, attack/defense. 

There is no other road to peace than for all people to 
depart from the castle gate of relative perception, go down 
into the meadow, and return to the heart of non-active 
nature. That is, sharpening the sickle instead of the sword. 

The farmers of long ago were a peaceful people, but 
now they are arguing with Australia about meat, quarreling 
with Russia over fish, and dependent on America for wheat 
and soybeans. 

I feel as if we in Japan are living in the shadow of a 
big tree, and there is no place more dangerous to be during 
a thunderstorm than under a big tree. And there could be 
nothing more foolish than taking shelter under a "nuclear 
umbrella" which will be the first target in the next war. 
Now we are tilling the earth beneath that dark umbrella. I 
feel as though a crisis is approaching from both inside and 

Get rid of the aspects of inside and outside. Farmers 
everywhere in the world are at root the same farmers. Let 
us say that the key to peace lies close to the earth. 

The One- Straw Revolution 

Among the young people who come to these 
mountain huts, there are those, poor in body and spirit, who 
have given up all hope. I am only an old farmer who 
grieves that he cannot even provide them with a pair of 
sandals — but there is still one thing I can give them. 

One straw. 

I picked up some straw from in front of the hut and 
said, "From just this one straw a revolution could begin." 

"With the destruction of mankind at hand, you can 
still hope to cling to a straw?" one youth asked, with a 
touch of bitterness in his voice. 

This straw appears small and light, and most people 
do not know how really weighty it is. If people knew the 
true value of this straw a human revolution could occur 
which would become powerful enough to move the country 
and the world. 

When I was a child there was a man who lived near 
Inuyose Pass. All he seemed to do was to pack charcoal on 
horseback two miles or so along the road from the top of 
the mountain to the port of Gunchu. And yet he became 
rich. If you ask how, people will tell you that on his trip 
homeward from the port he gathered the discarded straw 
horseshoes and the manure by the side of the road and put 
them onto his field. His motto was: "Treat one strand of 
straw as important and never take a useless step." It made 
him a wealthy man. 

"Even if you burned the straw, I don't think it could 
kindle a spark to start a revolution." 

A gentle breeze rustled through the orchard trees, 
sunlight flickering among the green leaves. I began to talk 
about using straw in growing rice. 

It has been nearly forty years since I realized how 
important straw could be in growing rice and barley. At 
that time, passing an old rice field in Kochi Prefecture 
which had been left unused and uncultivated for many 
years, I saw healthy young rice sprouting up through a 
tangle of weeds and straw which had accumulated on the 
field's surface. After working on the implications of that for 
many years, I came out advocating a completely new 
method of rice and barley growing. 

Believing that this was a natural and revolutionary 
way of farming, I wrote about it in books and magazines, 
and spoke of it on television and radio dozens of times. 

It seems a very simple thing, but farmers are so set in 
their thinking about how straw should be used, that it is 
unlikely that they will accept change easily. Spreading 

fresh straw on a field can be risky because rice blast and 
stem rot are diseases always present in rice straw. In the 
past, these diseases have caused great damage, and this is 
one of the main reasons that farmers have always turned 
the straw into compost before putting it back onto the field. 
Long ago, careful disposal of rice straw was commonly 
practiced as a countermeasure against blast disease, and 
there were times in Hokkaido when the wholesale burning 
of straw was required by law. 

Stem borers also enter the straw to pass the winter. To 
prevent an infestation of these insects, farmers used to 
compost the straw carefully all winter long to be sure that it 
would be completely decomposed by the following spring. 
That is why Japanese farmers have always kept their fields 
so neat and tidy. The practical knowledge of everyday life 
was that if farmers left straw lying around, they would be 
punished by heaven for their negligence. 

After years of experimentation, even technical experts 
have now confirmed my theory that spreading fresh straw 
on the field six months before seeding is completely safe. 
This overturned all previous ideas on the subject. But it is 
going to be a long while before the farmers become 
receptive to using straw in this manner. 

Farmers have been working for centuries to try to 
increase the production of compost. The Ministry of 
Agriculture used to give incentive pay to encourage 
compost production, and competitive compost exhibitions 
were held as annual events. Farmers came to believe in 
compost as though it were the protective deity of the soil. 
Now again there is a movement to make more compost, 
"better" compost, with earthworms and "compost-starter." 
There is no reason to expect an easy acceptance of my 
suggestion that prepared compost is unnecessary, that all 
you have to do is scatter fresh unshredded straw across the 

In traveling up to Tokyo, looking out the window of 
the Tokaido train, I have seen the transformation of the 
Japanese countryside. Looking at the winter fields, the 
appearance of which has completely changed in ten years, I 
feel an anger I cannot express. The former landscape of 
neat fields of green barley, Chinese milk vetch, and 
blooming rape plants is nowhere to be seen. Instead, half- 
burned straw is piled roughly in heaps and left soaking in 
the rain. That this straw is being neglected is proof of the 
disorder of modern farming. The barrenness of these 

fields reveals the barrenness of the farmer's spirit. It 
challenges the responsibility of government leaders, and 
clearly points out the absence of a wise agricultural policy. 

The man who several years ago talked about a 
"merciful end" to the growing of winter grain, of its "death 

by the side of the road" — what does he think now when he 
sees these empty fields? Seeing the barren fields of 
wintertime Japan, I can remain patient no longer. With this 
straw, I, by myself, will begin a revolution! 

The youths who had been listening silently were now 
roaring with laughter. 

"A one-man revolution! Tomorrow let's get a big sack 
of barley, rice, and clover seed and take off, carrying it on 
our shoulders, like Okuninushi-no-mikoto,* and broadcast 
seeds all over the fields of Tokaido." 

"That's not a one-man revolution," I laughed, "it's a 
one-straw revolution! " 

Stepping out of the hut into the afternoon sunlight, I 
paused for a moment and gazed at the surrounding orchard 
trees laden with ripening fruit, and at the chickens 
scratching in the weeds and clover. I then began my 
familiar descent to the fields. 

*The legendary Japanese god of healing who travels around tossing 
good fortune from a large sack which he carries over his shoulder. 

The One-Straw Revolution was designed and produced by Jack 
Shoemaker and George Mattingly, and typeset in Trump Mediaeval by 
Bob Sibley, in Berkeley, 1977-78.